Common Causes of Back Pain

img_4172

Many Americans suffer from ongoing back pain and the unfortunate thing is that they either ignore it or are completely unaware of the cause. While living with back pain can be difficult, many of the root causes can actually be reversed if the correct steps are taken. The important thing is to analyze what type of pain you are feeling and speak to your doctor to see what is causing your pain in order to receive proper treatment. If you’re unsure where to start, the following is a list of common causes for back pain:

  1. Poor posture: This is perhaps the most common cause of back issues. Slouching, hunching, sleeping incorrectly, and overall incorrect posture while sitting and standing can all contribute to back pain. Consider correcting your posture by setting reminders or purchasing a posture corrector to see if it helps improve your symptoms.
  2. Form: Some people hit the gym and have no idea that form can make or break them. Doing exercises incorrectly can cause major back issues, so it’s best to learn from a professional or ask for help in order to ensure you won’t cause any long term damage from performing exercises incorrectly.
  3. Nerve Compression: Sometimes a root in the spine is pinched or compressed and sends pain signals to the brain, this can be a direct cause of other disorders such as herniated discs or bone spurs.
  4. Degenerative Disc Disease: More so than a disease, this is the natural process the body undergoes as it ages. Those who are older tend to see a reduction in disc space due to less hydration in the body, which is a common cause of back pain and discomfort.
  5. Accidents: Some back pain can be a direct result of a recent or even old injury, in this case, physical therapy and exercise at home can be a good option to help alleviate pain.

Of course, back pain can come from a number of different factors. As mentioned before, it’s important to find out where your pain stems from in order to find the right treatment option that will work best for your condition. Although some cases may require surgery in order to improve, your path to feeling better may be as simple as therapy, pain medication, and even light exercises like yoga.

How To Transform Your Environment for Better Sleep

img_4168

Good sleep is important. Getting enough rest is not just about sleeping a certain number of hours, but rather getting quality sleep. Sleeping improves cognitive function, keeps your immune system in check, and is linked to overall better health.

While many adults know how many hours of sleep they should be getting, many of them don’t actually get enough. Additionally, many people are not aware of proper sleep hygiene methods that can drastically improve the quality of their sleep. Today we’re talking about the things you can do in order to transform your bedroom and improve the quality of your sleep.

  1. Get organized: Creating a clutter-free space is an essential part of getting good sleep. If your environment is tidy, your mind is more likely to feel peaceful when it’s time to go to bed. Additionally, organizing under your bed can help keep the area well ventilated which is important due to the moisture your body releases throughout the night.
  2. Darkness: Believe it or not, any hint of light can actually confuse your brain and disrupt your sleep. This includes night lights, street lights, and even moonlight. Invest in shades and make sure to turn off all the lights when it’s time to sleep. A helpful tip is to dim your lights about an hour before bed in order to get your body ready to wind down and sleep.
  3. Put away electronics: Continuing off of the previous point, it’s important to reduce or eliminate electronic use immediately before bed. Experts recommend avoiding a TV in your bedroom, sleeping away from electronics, and turning off cellphones and tablets an hour or two before bed. The reason being? The blue light emitted by our electronics disrupts the production of melatonin and thus impact the quality of your sleep.
  4. Cool down: Lower the temperature before bed, this has been proven to help your body prepare for sleep.
  5. Scent: Creating a relaxing atmosphere through aromatherapy can help quiet your mind. Scents such as lavender, vanilla, and jasmine can all help improve the quality of sleep.
  6. Pillows: Make sure you change your pillows every once in a while and that you use a good quality pillow that won’t impact your posture or cause headaches.
  7. Cut out disruptions: Some disruptions may seem little, but they can actually impact the quality of your sleep. If you have a small nightlight, if your dog snores, or if there are any other small interruptions present throughout the night, make sure to find a solution to these things that will let you sleep through the night. In turn, you will feel well rested and better overall.

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

img_3918

The Ketogenic diet has made its way into many headlines and into the lives of those looking to adopt a new way of eating in order to improve their health. Earlier this year we saw many people, including well-known celebrities, raging about the diet. Although it has been around for a few years, the diet continues to gain traction in the wellness world

The Ketogenic diet, briefly explained, is a form of food consumption where nearly all carbs are cut and replaced with healthy fats. Doing so makes your body enter into a metabolic process called ketosis, where your body burns fat because there are little to no carbohydrates left to burn for energy. This process turns fat into ketones inside the liver which can aid in transmitting energy supply to the brain.

The following are some foods to eat when following a Ketogenic diet:

  • Lean protein such as chicken
  • Seafood
  • Low-carb vegetables
  • Berries
  • Cheese and yogurt
  • Avocadoes, olives, and other healthy fats
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Unsweetened beverages such as coffee and tea

The following are foods to avoid:

  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Foods high in sugar
  • Processed foods
  • Fruits high in sugar
  • Root vegetables
  • Unhealthy Fats
  • Alcohol

The Ketogenic diet includes benefits such as weight loss, increased energy, and reduction in levels of blood sugar and insulin. Additionally, it can help improve risk factors of heart disease, slow down tumor growth, and help improve symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. Although the diet can show improvements for some people, it’s important to know your body’s specific needs and assess whether this diet would be right for you before making any drastic lifestyle changes.

How to Avoid Sports Injuries

img_3915

It’s safe to say that if you exercise, play a sport, or are physically active you may experience an injury at any given time during your life. A sports injury is a type of injury that occurs during any form of physical activity and involves the muscles and bones and can relate to a number of factors. Common type of sports injuries may include fractures, sprains, torn ligaments, and even the dislocation of body parts.

Sports injuries are fairly common, but this is not to say that everyone should experience them on a regular basis. There are many things you can do in order to set yourself up for success and reduce your risk of injury. The following are some measures to take in order to avoid sports injuries:

  1. Warm up: Make sure to practice dynamic stretching or stretching specific to your sport before starting physical activity in order to warm up the muscle and prepare it for movement. If you’ve had a previous injury, properly warm up the area.
  2. Cool down: Likewise, it’s important to stretch the muscles and relax them after finishing a physical activity.
  3. Wear protection: Certain sports require protective gear. Whether it’s a helmet, pads, protective eyewear, or even shoes, make sure you are wearing the proper protection to keep yourself and others safe.
  4. Follow the rules: By following the rules of a sport and taking proper precautions inside a gym you are less likely to suffer from injuries or even worse, cause someone else to suffer an injury.
  5. Rest day: Give yourself enough time in between workouts and physical training to rest. Overworking your body is an easy way to risk getting an injury.
  6. Listen to your body: If you feel pain somewhere, listen to your body’s warning signs. Straining your body while it’s in pain can definitely lead to unwanted injuries and more pain.

Helpful Tips for Headache Relief

img_3796

Headaches are the most common type of pain humans experience, and there are countless reasons which may cause them. A headache is described as a pain that stems from the head and upper neck and may bring about sensations of throbbing, constant or intermittent pain, squeezing, and sometimes even nausea and vomiting.

Headaches can be classified into three categories: primary headaches, secondary headaches, and cranial neuralgia or other headaches. Primary headaches include common types that many people will experience throughout their lifetimes such as tension headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches. While primary headaches are not life-threatening, they can affect some people’s day to day activities. Secondary headaches are those caused by an underlying problem. Typically, they are a result of infections or diseases in the body, trauma to the head, and even substance abuse. Finally, there are cranial neuralgia and other headaches which are directly related to the nerves and can be accompanied by facial pain.

While headaches can be a problem, you don’t have to suffer all the time. The first step is figuring out the root cause of your problem and seeing a doctor if you believe your headache may be caused by an underlying issue that you need to treat. For less serious headaches, the following are a few ways to get relief:

  1. Resting: If you suffer from migraines, a quiet and dark room may be the ideal setting for you. Taking a moment to rest may help with your headache.
  2. Relax: Practicing relaxation techniques such as breathing, meditation, yoga, and tai chi can all help improve the symptoms of certain types of headaches.
  3. Hydrate: Dehydration can trigger migraines, make sure to sip water throughout the day to ensure your levels are balanced. Try adding fruits and herbs to your water in order to make staying hydrated more exciting!
  4. Massage: Massaging your temples, shoulders, neck, and other trigger points can help reduce tension and help alleviate headaches.
  5. Manage Stress: Try managing stress through relaxation techniques and taking mental breaks when necessary, as stress can be a direct cause of headaches and other issues.
  6. Warm it up: Adding a heating pad around your neck can help alleviate headaches caused by tension in the muscles.
  7. Exercise: Staying active can actually have a positive impact on those who suffer from headaches. This is because it will activate your circulation while also helping to reduce stress through the release of endorphins. High-impact and low-impact exercise will both work in this case.
  8. Use your sense of smell: Smelling essential oils such as lavender can help reduce feelings of stress and reduce the severity of migraines.
  9. Caffeine: Drinking a cup of coffee if you have an early sign of a headache may help reduce your symptoms. With that said though, experts don’t recommend drinking too much caffeine as you can build a tolerance to it and experience withdrawal headaches on days you don’t drink it.
  10. Pause: Taking constant breaks to stand up, look away from the computer, stretch, and correct your posture can all help to reduce or avoid headaches.
  11. Establish a sleeping routine: Getting too little or too much sleep can contribute to suffering from migraines. The best thing to do in this case is finding a sweet spot for your ideal number of hours and establishing a regular sleeping schedule in order to give your body enough time to recover on a daily basis.
  12. Take vitamins: Vitamin deficiencies are known to cause headaches, getting your levels checked and taking the right supplements can help reduce headaches.
  13. Medication: For those who prefer to receive treatment using medication, over the counter pain relievers are typically quick and effective remedies for tension headaches. For those who suffer from migraines, prescription-strength medication may provide the relief you need. It’s important to practice this method of relief in moderation so as to not become dependent on it or suffer from additional issues.

What is HIIT?

img_3793

HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training, a style of training has been on trend for the last few years, and for good reason. HIIT workouts are designed to last only a few minutes (about 30 minutes or less) while exerting an all-out effort during short bursts of time throughout the session. The reason this method of exercise is highly effective is that the body’s need for oxygen increases after exerting an all-out effort and thus results in an afterburn during recovery that helps burn more calories and fat.

HIIT workouts have proven that losing weight and staying on track with your fitness goals doesn’t require all your time, though the more effort you put into it the quicker, better results you will get in return. High-intensity bursts can be incorporated into many different forms of exercise including body weight training, cycling, swimming, and running. Due to the high intensity of the workouts, they should only be done two to three times a week with a recovery period in between.

For those looking to increase muscle mass and look leaner overall, combining HIIT sessions with heavy weight training is your best bet. HIIT is also great for those looking to see weight loss results quicker. If you’re interested in trying out HIIT or want to know the benefits, here are a few:

  1. Increase your metabolism: Because your body consumes more oxygen during high-intensity interval training, your metabolic rate increases and thus helps your body burn more calories at a faster pace and lose weight.
  2. Less workout time: If you’re a busy person, or simply don’t want to spend hours at the gym, HIIT offers a quick yet effective way to stay active.
  3. No equipment needed: HIIT is very versatile, and you can easily complete a number of workouts without equipment or a gym membership.
  4. Keep muscle: Unlike steady cardio, HIIT allows you to lose fat while keeping muscle. Additionally, those who are looking to start gaining muscle can also see some results when they implement this style of training into a workout routine.
  5. Build endurance: Studies have shown that those who incorporate high-intensity interval training into their routines experience increased performance when it comes to endurance after a few weeks.
  6. Boosts heart health: Interval training helps get the blood flowing and increases your heart health due to the exerting period of exercise, which helps work out the muscle, and the rest period that comes right after.

How to Ease Joint Pain

img_3724

Underlying Causes

Your joints are the part of the human body where the bones meet and connect. They include the hips, knees, shoulders, and elbows. As we age, it’s fairly common to experience joint pain and discomfort. With that said, there are many reasons why we may experience joint pain and we may run into this issue at any point during our lives.

Joint pain may be caused by a variety of reasons. The most common reason for joint pain is arthritis or inflammation of the joints. Arthritis has many categories and degrees of severity and is typically more common among older adults, although anyone can suffer from it. Arthritis causes pain and stiffness and can worsen as we get older.

There are many other reasons why we may experience joint pain. Overuse of the joints or injuries can cause pain. Additionally, diseases such as lupus, infections, tendonitis, osteoporosis, and cancer can all contribute to pain. Joint pain causes a lot of discomfort and can even get in the way of daily activities for many people. Keep reading to find out ways to ease and prevent joint pain in order to enjoy a better quality of life.

Easing the Pain

There are many ways to help treat, alleviate, and even reduce the likelihood of suffering from joint pain.

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise frequently and keep your body moving
  • Stretch often, especially before and after a workout in order to improve mobility and reduce the risk of injuries
  • Listen to your body: rest when necessary and don’t overuse your joints
  • Use food as medicine by consuming omega 3 fatty acids, supplements, and anti-inflammatory spices and foods such as turmeric
  • Use massage therapy to improve mobility
  • Hot and cold therapy

When to See a Doctor

If you have a serious condition, you may notice some of the following warning signs

  • Deformed joints
  • Unable to move a joint
  • Sudden swelling and redness
  • Severe pain

If you experience any of these, seek medical help immediately to get the appropriate medication to treat your condition.

Types of Yoga and Their Benefits

img_3720

The increased ease of communication has made people’s lives much busier than before, and it’s no surprise that many are seeking out a way to slow down and quiet the mind in the midst of the fast-paced world we live in. Yoga, the practice of incorporating breathing, meditation, and posture techniques, has found its way into the routines of many people looking to find a physical and mental release from the tensions of daily life.

The practice of yoga is an ancient Hindu discipline that has grown in popularity over the last few decades due to its overall wellness benefits. People of all ages and physical conditions can benefit from the discipline because yoga is not an all or nothing approach. In fact, there are dozens of types of yoga that you can practice depending on the type of rigor or benefit you are seeking.

Today we are talking about some of the most popular types of yoga and the body and mind benefits that they bring when practiced regularly.

Hatha: this type of yoga, which focuses on the physical aspect of the practice, is often a good starting point. All types of yoga fall under the “Hatha” category as Hatha yoga is any class that teaches movement and poses. This is an essential part of practicing yoga as it teaches you proper alignment, poses, and breathing techniques for tension release and relaxation.

Vinyasa: This type of yoga is more fast-paced and is typically less structured, meaning it varies depending on the instructor. The goal is to combine movement and breath and to get your heart rate pumping. This form of the practice focuses on sun salutations and places emphasis on the flow between poses.

Ashtanga: Also known as “power” yoga, this style is more physically demanding than other types and is probably not best suited for beginners. This type of yoga takes years of practice to perfect and is considered more rigorous, making the connection between mind and body more focused and stronger.

Yin: If you’re looking to improve flexibility and reap mental health benefits, Yin yoga is one of the best types of yoga to practice. Yin focuses on stretching the muscles and holding poses for a few minutes and is typically slow-paced and very meditative.

Restorative: This style is meant to aid the body in recovering from stress and clear the mind. Like Yin, poses are held for longer periods of time and props are used to help the body through the poses. This style is not meant to be rigorous but rather deeply relaxing.

How to Fight Inflammation in the Body

img_3466

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is a natural process our body goes through, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, inflammation is what helps our system through the healing process as it fights against anything that may be harming it including injuries, diseases, and infections.

 

While inflammation is a good, natural process, it can also become a chronic issue. Chronic inflammation is a bad type that may affect your body for days, months, and even years. This constant state of alert can have negative consequences over time and damage your tissues and can even cause serious complications that lead to heart disease, cancer, obesity, and other chronic conditions.

Chronic inflammation can be caused by many reasons and can result in a myriad of health-related complications. Stress, lifestyle, diet, pollution, and autoimmune disorders can all be underlying causes of chronic inflammation.

Signs of Inflammation

Short-term signs of inflammation are obvious and may be visible as redness, swelling, and can result in pain. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is not always visible. Some signs of chronic inflammation include:

  • Fatigue and insomnia
  • Body pains
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Infections
  • Weight gain
  • Skin conditions such as eczema and rashes

How to reduce inflammation

The good news is that chronic inflammation can be reversed by making changes to your lifestyle. The following are ways to reduce chronic inflammation:

  1. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet high in antioxidants (more on this later)
  2. Cut out processed and inflammatory-causing foods (more on this later)
  3. Exercise regularly
  4. Keep your mental health in check and practice stress reduction techniques such as yoga and meditation
  5. Quit smoking and avoid alcohol
  6. Regularly get a good night’s sleep

Foods that reduce inflammation

If you are looking to change your diet in order to aid the process of reducing inflammation, consider eating more of the following foods:

  • Fruit and vegetables high in antioxidants
  • Omega-3 rich food such as fatty fish
  • Whole grains
  • Healthy fats such as avocados and olive oil
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes
  • Tea
  • Spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and clove

Foods that Cause Inflammation

On the other hand, avoid the following foods which are known to further cause inflammation in the body:

  • Processed carbs
  • Sugars
  • Packaged snack foods and frozen meals
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Sugary beverages
  • Processed meat and red meat
  • Fried foods

The Three Pillars of Exercise (And Their Benefits)

img_3465

We all know the importance of exercise as we’ve heard it time and time again. In order to enjoy a healthy lifestyle with minimal health issues, we need to implement regular exercise in our routines. The pros go beyond physical well-being as exercising has also been proven to help keep our mental health in check.

Did you know that physical exercise can be divided into different categories (or pillars)? These include cardio, strength, and flexibility. Ideally, a routine involving all three is the best way to keep your body physically equipt and balanced. Keep reading to find out about each pillar and how you can benefit from them.

Cardio

The first pillar of exercise is cardio. This pillar works your cardiovascular health by raising your heart rate and improving circulation. Additionally, it helps your respiratory system, reduces the risk of heart disease, and can help you lose weight by amping up your metabolism and making you burn calories at a quicker pace. Cardio includes running, swimming, rowing, hiking, and any other form of exercise that increases beats per minute (BPM).

Strength

The second is strength or strength training. This pillar focuses on body composition and strengthening the different muscle groups including the upper body, lower body, and core. It also focuses on bone density. Strength training involves weights, resistance bands, machines, and using your own body weight in order to challenge the muscles and increase their abilities. Strength training can improve your physical appearance by enhancing your muscle tone, may help boost stamina, and may even improve posture and balance.

Flexibility

The third pillar is flexibility. This pillar should not be overlooked as it can help you reach maximum efficiency in the other two. Flexibility involves exercises such as tai chi, pilates, and yoga. These forms of exercise can help your body’s range of motion and in turn help you perform better when running or doing strength exercises. Additionally, it has been shown to have mental benefits, help people recover quickly after an intense session, prevent injuries, improve circulation, and improve posture.

As you can see, each pillar has its benefits. When they are combined in order to maintain variety in your fitness routine, the three pillars can have a number of positive effects on your overall physical and mental health. Don’t forget that in order to lead a healthy lifestyle you need to keep up with a balanced routine. Taking all pillars into consideration will help you succeed in your goals as they all work in relation to one another and help you perform at your best!