Friday, August 24, 2018

Exercise Balls for Recovery, Strength & Balance

Using a Physio Ball at Home

Physio balls are used regularly in therapy offices to manage pain and help patients recover from weakness or injuries. At home, you can do the same. An inflatable exercise ball is easy and affordable and can help you to recover from back pain, establish muscle tone, improve posture and more.

The reasons an exercise ball is so effective in the treatment and prevention of a range of injuries is because it can be used in so many ways. It strengthens and develops muscles that help to stabilize the spine, it allows you to stretch safely, it takes pressure off joints and it helps you engage in lots of small movements to keep the blood moving.

The exercise ball introduces an element of instability that other types of exercises can't. Whether you simply sit on it or you use it in a more advanced way, using an exercise ball doesn’t just keep muscles engaged, it also increases your awareness of how your body is moving and where it is in space. This awareness is called prioception. Most of us don't actively think about how our bodies relate to the space around us; we turn a corner or bend down to pick something up, all without bumping into walls or furniture. But an injury can change all that.

There is a range of ways in which you can safely use an exercise ball at home to reap the benefits you desire. Let's start with the basics:

Step 1: Sitting & Bouncing Lightly

If this sounds too simple to you, but you haven’t tried it, be sure not to discount just how effective something this basic can be. To start, simply sit on your ball and get a feel for it. You'll immediately notice how much more engaged your core becomes in order to keep your center is gravity. If you're nervous about sitting on a rolling object or you find yourself a bit too unstable, let some air out of your ball. The more inflated your ball is, the harder it will be to keep it directly underneath you.

Finding your center of gravity on an inflatable fitness ball will improve your posture, engage your core and align your spine. Initially, try sitting on your new fitness ball for 5-10 minutes; as you become more comfortable, lightly begin to bounce up and down. Switching your office chair for a fitness ball is a great way to avoid lower back and circulation issues.

Step 2: Your Core

Now that you're comfortable sitting and bouncing on your fitness ball, you can take your daily stability and strength training to the next level. Challenge your balance by purposely changing your center of gravity. With your hands on your hips, tilt your pelvis toward you, pulling your stomach in. By slowly rocking on your exercise ball, you'll engage your core while lengthening the spine. Repeat this balancing stretch ten or more times, with hips rocking side to side as well as back to front.
Once you feel comfortable with this, you can add another challenging layer to your daily workout by moving your hips in continual circles. In one motion without pausing, shift your weight in a circular motion, first clockwise and then counterclockwise. Adding handheld weights increases difficulty.

A basic seated exercise such as this one can be altered in various ways to build balance and improve
proprioception. Working on your proprioception is especially important after an injury, when certain receptors may have become damaged causing input to be misinterpreted.

Luckily, your proprioceptive ability can be strengthened through exercises that will help you get reacquainted with your subconscious senses. There is a wide range of proprioceptive exercises, from strength training to balancing boards. Sitting on a fitness ball is one great way to regain your senses without placing any additional pressure on the affected joint. Practicing more advanced exercises such as rolling an exercise ball up and down a wall using only your back will help you to retrain your body to move in a way that minimizes re-injury.

Step 3: Stretching

One of the most effective and popular stretches a physio ball provides is the lower back stretch. If you've never performed this stretch before, you might want to consider holding on to a steady object such as a desk or a friend for balance. Then, while sitting firmly with both feet on the ground, slowly begin to take small steps away from the ball while lowering yourself downward. As the fitness ball rolls up your back, relax your shoulders to let your spine curve with the shape of the ball. To fully sink into this stretch, move your arms overhead to drape your entire body over the ball while breathing in and out slowly.

Step 4: Extension

Most people, when they think about "core strength" attribute all of the credit to the ab muscles. We tend to forget about the back, specifically the lower back, which receives very little action aside from bending forward. Little of what we do requires any backward bending, and so, we tend to neglect the muscles that help to keep our core in balance.
Regular extension exercises are great for a variety of reasons, but they're not generally a good fit for people who have had any vertebrae fractures, so we recommend that you talk with your physician before beginning any lumbar extension workouts.

When you're ready to give this exercise a try, lie on your stomach over your exercise ball, arms
resting comfortably. By spreading your feet widely, you'll gain more balance. Keeping your hips in contact with the ball, and without the help of your arms, begin to lift your chest off the ball, actively squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lift as high as is comfortable, hold for five seconds, then repeat. Repetitions of 10 will get you started.

Step 5: Abs

Of course, if we're going to talk about actively engaging our core, we can't neglect that all-time favorite: the sit-up. While some of you might groan at the very idea, keep in mind that the nice thing about doing a sit-up on an exercise ball is that your back is fully supported and you can easily adjust this exercise to your own skill level.
To start, sit on the ball as you normally would. Move your feet forward, as with the backstretch, easing the ball up your back until you've reached your shoulder blades. Engage your core and, without pulling on your neck, sit up slightly. Be mindful that you don't walk back and forth with your feet; the rocking motion you experience should originate from your core.

To ensure you're getting the most out of your ball, it's important to choose the proper size for you. There are three common adult sizes available" 55 cm, 65 cm and 75 cm.
Choose a 55 cm ball if you are approximately 155 to 170 cm tall.
Pick a 65 cm ball if you are approximately 171 to 188 cm tall.
And a 75 cm ball if you are taller.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Identifying & Preventing Circulatory Problems

Causes for Circulatory Insufficiency

Circulatory insufficiency isn't a disease in and of itself. Poor blood circulation occurs as a result of underlying health issues, and you might have already guessed that these can be quite serious.
When blood circulates normally, oxygen and nutrients are carried to every cell of your body in order to sustain you. If circulation doesn’t occur properly, long-term damage begins. The longer you experience circulatory problems, the more your health will suffer.

While it's impossible to completely control all aspects of your health, there are always changes you can make in order to improve the quality and length of your life. For example, if you have a family history of disease or illness, you should consider eliminating the behaviors that have been shown to increase your risk.

Circulatory problems are no different. They can arise from a variety of underlying factors, and most can be kept under control with proper intervention.
Without a checkup from your doctor, it won't be possible to pinpoint the exact cause of your circulatory issues, however, there are several pervasive lifestyle risk factors for developing poor circulation. These are obesity, poor food choices, lack of physical activity, smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

When managed early on, the diseases that can lead to poor circulation are treatable and even reversible. However, left unmanaged, circulatory illnesses will progress and lead to life-threatening complications.

Varicose Veins & Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Improper blood flow might initially be symptomless or be quite obvious. Varicose veins are one of the most obvious signs of improper blood flow. Varicose veins are caused when valves that control blood flow malfunction and circulation becomes insufficient. This malfunction often leads to a secondary condition called chronic venous insufficiency, because oxygen, waste and nutrients aren't properly exchanged.

Risk factors for varicose veins include:

  • Obesity
  • Genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Standing jobs

Although every person with a standing desk will tout the benefits of working upright, it’s unlikely that anyone’s ever spent eight hours a day, five days a week on their feet in front of a monitor. And that’s actually a good thing because jobs that require excessive periods of standing, such as at a cash register, can lead to CVI, particularly if the person is overweight. Sitting on a fitness ball such as this one is a great alternative to traditional office chairs or standing desks. A fitness ball engages your core and will ensure that you move about regularly while seated. In addition, it’s recommended that you step away from your desk every two hours for a quick stretch.
CVI is a chronic condition that can be treated but is not curable.

Peripheral Artery Disease & Atherosclerosis

Another common cause of poor circulation is peripheral artery disease (PAD), in which blood flow to the extremities is reduced. PAD is often accompanied by a condition called atherosclerosis, where plaque builds up on the walls of your arteries and blood vessels and causes them to harden. Atherosclerosis is directly linked with high blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol, because these cause damage to the lining of blood vessels. The damage causes plaque to build up, narrowing the artery and impeding blood flow. If the plaque loosens, it can trigger a blood clot to form, which narrows the artery even further.

One symptom shared by most PAD-sufferers is pain, cramping and fatigue in the legs or hips while walking. Unfortunately, many patients do not discover atherosclerosis until an actual blockage has occurred.

Risk factors for PAD and atherosclerosis are:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Poor diet
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity
  • Diabetes

Blood Clots

Blood clots may sit quietly for long periods of time without causing any real noticeable symptoms at all before dislodging and causing serious pain. Blood clots can be caused by a range of factors, including atherosclerosis, which we already discussed above. Other risks for developing blood clots are:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Birth control pills
  • Prolonged immobility

Unlike physical inactivity, prolonged immobility doesn’t refer to a lack of regular exercise, but rather to how long a person sits in one position. That means, even otherwise healthy people can become susceptible to blood clots when they don’t move around regularly.
If you use airline travel for work, you are more susceptible to blood clots and circulatory problems because it's generally much more inconvenient to get up and move around during a flight, especially if you're finding yourself with a steady stream of cocktails and unlimited free movies. Any flight lasting more than 4 hours puts you at risk. It is recommended you move about frequently.

Deep Vein Thrombosis

If a blood clot develops in the veins deep within the body, the condition is called deep vein thrombosis or DVT. Similarly to a superficial blood clot, DVT may be symptomless for long periods of time. However, if a deep-vein clot dislodges, it can travel to the lungs and be life-threatening.
DVT also causes venous insufficiency.

Many of the risks we’ve discussed can be avoided through lifestyle changes. However, some risks, such as diabetes, can only be managed.


If you have Type 1 diabetes and your body cannot make insulin, it’s vital to check your blood sugar often, eat the right foods to avoid blood sugar spikes and inject insulin when needed.
Remember that insulin isn’t a magic ingredient. A lifetime of repeated exposure to high blood sugar will ultimately cause irreparable damage to blood vessels, putting you at a much higher risk of a heart attack or stroke. Maintaining a healthy diet is a vital part of diabetes management.

Circulatory issues can present in a variety of ways and sometimes not at all. Knowing your risks is half the battle.

Symptoms if Circulatory Insufficiency Illnesses

We've all woken up to a tingling arm after sleeping on our side for too long, or had that pesky pin-and-needle feeling take the skip out of our step after sitting the wrong way, but when numbness, tingling or pain - particularly in the extremities - are an everyday occurrence, it's time to take a closer look.
Occasional numbness is normal; we temporarily cut off blood supply to fingers or toes by sitting too long or bending the wrong way, but when numbness becomes a part of your everyday life, you may have a circulatory problem.

Treatment for poor circulation is widely varied and may include medications, compression garments and surgery. The best way to ensure a long and healthy life without complications from circulatory diseases is prevention.
To prevent blood clots, PAD, hardening of the arteries and arterial insufficiency:

Reduce body fat, particularly in the belly region
Eat healthily
Don’t smoke
Keep blood sugar levels normal
Keep cholesterol and blood pressure low
Take your medications as prescribed
Move about frequently when sitting at work or on a plane

Being aware that certain lifestyle factors automatically increase your risks of developing circulatory illnesses, whether you're predisposed to them or not, should help you make better choices regarding diet, exercise and lifestyle. Knowing your risks, changing your lifestyle and listening to your body can help you avoid irreversible damage from progressive illnesses that manifest as circulatory issues.