Stenosis of the spine

After puppy obedience classes today, I walked out with Booka’s owner, an older man with generous smile.  He talked about how he was struggling with Spinal Stenosis and had numbness and tingling in his arms and legs.  He went on to explain how much pain he was in.  I instantly wanted to recommend Yoga to him as it has been a lifesaver for me, but with Stenosis, Yoga can be harmful.

Stenosis comes from the Greek word “to choke,” which is sort of what is happening.  The spinal column is comprised of 24 individual vertebrae in the lumbar, cervical and thoracic regions of the body.  The cervical vertebrae (C1 –C7)  support the head and allow it to  move,  flex and have posterior/anterior flexion and extension. With the lower spine, structurally, the cervical vertebrae form a  tunnel, or vertebral canal. This canal protects the spinal cord and the  nerves that exit through the vertebral foramina. Sandwiched between each vertebra is an intervertebral disc that cushions the bones. The discs also help  make movement and flexibility possible. When the normal anatomy  of the vertebrae is somehow  compromised, severe  pain and other  problems can arise.

With stenosis,  the vertebrae in the neck may start to narrow in  on the spinal cord, this can impede movement and affect normal day-to-day functions.

We are a society that works way too hard and too much. We don’t exercise enough and don’t eat the right foods.  Back problems are increasing.

The conventional way to treat stenosis is with rest, neck bracing (only temporary) and mild exercise to strengthen support muscles for the spine.  Medications include anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants and sometimes narcotics. Unless a person is experiences a neurological deficit due to the stenosis, some natura healers  say that surgery is seldom required and that there are noninvasive treatments.

 Alternative Options are listed below. They show promise of being useful in treating the symptoms of stenosis.

1. Acupuncture –  Chinese medicine theory, acupressure and acupuncture are showing to be very helpful in reducing pain. The Bladder and Kidney meridians are connected to the very deepest part of our bodies: the nerves and bones.

2. Chiropractic – The severity of stenosis will determine if this is an option. A  Chiropractor often uses ultrasound stimulation, exercise and nutrition when he or she treats this painful condition.

3. Cranial-Sacral Therapy – This is my favorite! This therapy is a very gentle kind of bodywork and can be very effective in easing the pressure on the spine.  It involves a  light touching that works to  balance the cranial-sacral system and is often effective  in alleviating the  pain.

4. Swedish Massage – Traditional Swedish massage is often  very effective in the reduction of pain brought on by spinal stenosis. Depending on the severity of the stenosis, massage can range anywhere from light  to deep cross friction techniques.  it is important to avoid the joints that may be “angry” which is a term used for inflammation.  Surrounding  muscles often  splint against any painful movement and interference with this splinting can worsen the pain.

It is very important to accurately diagnose your condition accurately before proceeding with treatment. The spinal cord is very fragile. For massage therapists and other bodyworkers, being educated in the basics  of stenosis and all of  its related complications such as spondylosis is vital  in both being able to manage  the pain as well as negating the possibility of causing  any  further possible problems.


Anti-inflammatory the natural way!

Everyone  knows  the plain facts  about inflammation.
If you’ve ever been stung by a bee, or  fallen off your skateboard as a kid (I had my fair share of those)  or broken out in hives, or even had the common cold then you know what acute inflammation feels like.  You also  know that your body responds to this type of “trauma” in the form of pains, aches, swelling and itching.

In very basic terms,  inflammation is your body’s natural reaction to heal itself from the damage caused by a virus, fungus, toxin or an injury. Without the process of inflammation, your body can’t heal itself when faced with these “assaults.”

In the most simplest of terms,  all inflammation begins  in an acute phase.  Your  becomes damaged in some way  due to a foreign agent, and it responds quickly  to repair the damage. In most  cases, this reaction goes unnoticed, or symptoms are so mild that they are even unnoticeable. Once the threat has vanished,  your  body will be  able to go back to a non-emergency state—and the inflammation process turns off.

Inflammation becomes chronic when the body has to constantly  fight off  something that won’t go away (repeat offender)  for instance,  H.pylori, Lyme Disease, or even heavy metal toxicity.  At this stage, your body’s inflammation process fails to stop. When this happens, your body becomes less strong and very stressed.

The inflammation process can be compared to a light bulb. When left on continuously, the light  will burn out a lot quicker than if it’s turned off  when not being used. When the inflammation process fails to turn off, the immune system becomes compromised because it is simply overworked and overused. Once the immune system is compromised,  sadly, ALL forms of chronic disease can occur—not just inflammatory diseases. That’s why diseases seemingly unrelated to inflammation occur. These include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Cancer

These are some very serious diseases that cause much suffering in the world today.  The list goes on with other diseases such as:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus
  • And many others

Sadly a lot of  people suffer from diseases  due to internal inflammation.

Many times people will be prescribed NSAIDs  or stronger medicines called steroids.  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce pain by counteracting the cyclooxygenase enzyme.  This enzyme synthesizes prostaglandins, causing inflammation.

How can you stop chronic inflammation?

Guarding  yourself against chronic disease requires changing the way you think about your health. Many people sacrifice their long-term health because they simply want their symptoms to go away, so they self-treat with over-the-counter medications from the local drug store instead of dealing with the underlying causes that assault their bodies on a continual basis.

The fact is  there is no “overnight fix” for chronic inflammation. In order to effectively stop  chronic inflammation and the potential for future disease, you need to find the true, hidden culprits and either control or eradicate them altogether. Some of the culprits of chronic inflammation include:

  • Fungi such as Candida.
  • Bacteria (including but not limited to) H. Pylori (responsible for peptic ulcers) and Borrelia burgdorferi (responsible for Lyme disease).
  • Viruses such as Hepatitis AE, Herpes, HIV, and Epstein Barr.

Undiagnosed food allergies can also cause inflammation. A lot of  people unknowingly suffer from lactose intolerance or gluten intolerance, or may be allergic to corn or soy (common ingredients found in many processed foods). Undiagnosed food allergies have the potential to cause severe, chronic inflammation. Gluten, milk, soy and corn are in so many things we ingest on a daily basis.  It’s really worth it to go to an allergist and find out if you have any allergies.

Effective therapies to treat the underlying causes of chronic inflammation may take many weeks, months, or even years. While this may seem like “an eternity” it is really  only a short period of time when it comes to increasing the quality of your overall health—and your lifespan.

Viewing food as medicine is an interesting concept.  Many foods have anti-inflammatory agents in them.  There are no side effects and you are nourishing your body as well as treating the inflammation.

One of my favorite anti-inflammatory foods is Kale.

Kale’s antioxidants are both traditional as well as recently discovered.

In addition to conventional antioxidants like vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese, kale also provides us with at least 45 different recently discovered flavonoids, including kaempferol and quercetin. Many of the flavonoids in kale are also now known to function not only as antioxidants, but also as anti-inflammatory compounds.

I eat Kale pretty much every single day of my life.   I didn’t start eating it for any reason but to increase my Iron  intake.  Calorie for calorie, Kale has more Iron than beef!  Having said that, what I noticed was an immediate feeling of well-being in my body.    I got curious as to why this may be.  Interestingly enough, Kale is very high in Omega-3 which is very effective in treating chronic inflammation.   Essential Omega fats play an important role in our health, unlike the saturated fats in meat. A serving of kale contains 121 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and 92.4 mg of omega-6 fatty acids.  I was eating fish and taking fish oil to obtain my omega-3 fatty acids.  I had no idea that Kale was such a great source of this wonderful nutrient!

What is Deep Tissue Massage?

Deep Tissue Massage is a massage that goes under the fascia (connective tissue) and is usually reserved for people who are extremely taxed in their body or have had an injury. 
 This is my favorite kind of massage to do.  I find that it is very easy for me to get to a place of Mindfulness when doing this kind of massage as it sort of resembles working with a fantastic work of art.
  The human body truly is beautiful.  Each client is different structurally and in their energy.  Even skin tone is truly something to be admired.  It would be a surprise if any of my clients new how strongly I feel this way.  Each session leaves me with a deeper appreciation for the human body and all its splendor!
  Knots in the fascia are often the cause of pain and deep tissue massage is an excellent way of getting them out.  Exercise also helps.  I find that there are certain spots where the tension is almost always the same with my clients.  That is, the shoulders, neck and lower back.  I have been using hot stone therapy a lot lately and am getting a lot of positive feedback when using these stones to work deep into the connective tissues. 
  I always tell my clients to make sure they drink a lot of water when they are done to flush out all the lactic acid out of the tissue.  Soreness is common and it means I did a good job.  This means that a lot of toxins were flushed and are being flushed out of your body.  I can’t emphasize enough the importance of drinking water.
  Deep tissue massage is vital to maintaining health and vitality.  However, it can’t be relied on alone.  Exercise, posture and maintaining an ideal weight are all very important. 

Which is the best massage oil?

There really isn’t any one answer to this question.  Some people have allergies and their own preferances.

I know of someone that is allergic to mineral oil.  This is why it’s always important to take the time to get to know your clients and ask them if they have any allergies.
I personally am allergic to almonds.  I had the pleasure of recieving a delightful massage as a birthday gift this past year.  The only problem was that my friend used almond oil. I was itchy all over!

Let’s take a look at some different kinds of oils and learn about them.

1) Sweet Almond Oil

This is a very popular oil.  It glides easily over the skin and is absorbed quickly into the skin, but not so quickly that you have to keep reapplying it.  I avoid this oil because of the prevelance of nut allergies.

2) Jojoba Oil

This oil is actually a wax from the seed of the jojoba plant.  This is a great oil for clients suffering from back acne as it has antibacterial properties.
It has a pretty good shelf life and is nicely absorbent. This is the oil I prefer to use as it absorbs essential oils nicely and I do like to add them to the jojoba  to customize  the healing experience with each individual client.  The drawback that I notice with this oil is that it does absorb a bit too quickly and I have to keep reapplying it.

3) Sunflower Oil

This is my favorite oil by far.  It is inexpensive, non-greasy and won’t leave the client feeling oily when they are done with their treatment.  Extracted from sunflower seeds, this oil  is rich in the essential fatty acid linoleic acid, as well as palmitic acid and stearic acid. These are  all components of healthy, glowing  skin. The amount of linoleic acid in skin depletes  with age and can be worn down by daily cleaning with soaps and cleansers.  It can go rancid rather quickly and should be stored in a cool, dark place.  Adding some drops of Vitamin E can extend the shelf life.  One thing to note is how high it is in Vitamin E which helps regulate hormonal cycles.  Anyone suffering from Pre-menstral Syndrome will often find relief in taking two tablespoons of the oil a day.  Please be sure to ask your clients if they have any allergies to the suflower plant as this will cause an allergic reaction if used to give a treatment.

4)  Sesame Oil

Sesame oil is considered sacred and special  in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India. It is used in a every day in Ayurvedic self-massage called abhyanga, as well as shirodhara.
According to Ayurveda, sesame oil is very  useful for nourishing and detoxifying and for ailments associated with the vata type, such as nervousness, poor circulation, constipation, bloating, and very dry skin..
Sesame oil is a very  thick oil that can  leave skin feeling oily, so it should  be blended with lighter massage oils. The unrefined oil has a strong aroma. Some like it, some do not.

5) Olive Oil

Olive oil is mostly associated with cooking, but it is sometimes  used for massage. It is a heavy oil with a greasy  texture and strong  aroma that many associate with the kitchen stove, so it’s usually not used on its own for massage.
One study compared topical olive oil with sunflower oil and found that olive oil had no effect on epidermal barrier function, whereas topical sunflower oil resulted in significant improvement in the skin barrier.  This is one oil that I won’t use for my clients as I find it to be too greasy and very hard to clean up.

5) Grapeseed Oil

Grapeseed oil makes a good  massage oil. It has no odor, and it has a creamy texture without being too oily or greasy. Having said that, most grapeseed oil is extracted from grape seeds using a solvent (rather than being pressed from the seeds), Some aromatherapists say that this makes it an inferior oil for aromatherapy massage.

To Carb or not to Carb…..

Carbohydrates are ideal nutrients to meet your body’s energy needs, to feed your brain and nervous system, to keep your digestive system fit, and within calorie limits, to help keep your body lean. Digestible carbohydrates, together with fats and protein, add bulk to foods and provide energy and other benefits for the body. Indigestible carbohydrates, which include most of the fibers in foods, yield little or no energy but provide other important benefits.
    All carbohydrates are not equal in terms of nutrition.   I will be explaining the differences between foods containing compex carbohydrates and those made of simple carbohydrates.
    Carbohydrates contain the sun’s radiant energy, captured in a form that living things can use to drive the processes of life.  Green plants make carbohydrate through photosynthesis in the presence of chlorophyll and sunlight. In this process, water absorbed into its leaves donates carbon and oxygen. Water and carbon dioxide combine to yield the most common of the sugars, the single sugar glucose. Scientists know the reaction in the minutest detail but have yet to reproduce it–green plants are required to make it happen.
   Light energy from the sun drives the photosynthesis reaction. The light energy becomes the chemical energy of the bonds that hold six atoms of carbon together in the sugar glucose. Glucose provides energy for the work of all the cells of the stem, roots, flowers, and fruits of the plant. For example, in the roots, far from the energy-giving rays of the sun, each cell draws upon some of the glucose made in the leaves, breaks it dow to carbon dioxide and water, and uses the energy thus released to fuel its own growth and water-gathering activities.
   Plants do not use all of the energy stored in in their sugars, so it remains available for use by the animal or human being that consumes the plant. Thus, carbohydrates form the first link in the food chain that supports all life on earth. Carbohydrate-rich foods come almost exclusively from plants; milk is the only animal-derived food that contains significant amounts of carbohydrate. The next few sections describe the forms assumed by carbohydrates: sugars, starch, glycogen, and fiber.
   Through photosynthesis, plants combine carbon dioxide, water, and the sun’s energy to form glucose.  Carbohydrates are made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen held together by energy-containing bonds: carbo means “carbon”; hydrate means “water.”
   Six sugar molecules are important in nutrition. Three of these are single sugars, or monosaccharides. The other three are double sugars, or disaccharides. All of their chemical names end in ose, which means “sugar.”  Although they all sound alike at first, they exhibit distance characteristics once you get to know them as individuals.

A balanced diet…yes, you can do it!

A nutritious diet has five characteristics. First is adequacy: the foods provide enough of each essential nutrient, fiber, and energy. Second is balance: the choices do not overemphasize one nutrient or food type at the expense of another. Third is calorie control: the foods provide the amount of energy you need to maintain appropriate weight-not more, not less. Four this moderation: the foods do no provide excess fat, salt, sugar, or other unwanted constituents. Fifth is variety: the foods chosen differ from one day to the next. In addition, to maintain a steady suppy of nutrients, meals should occur with regular timing throughout the day.

Any nutrient could be used to demonstrate the importance of dietary adequacy. Iron provides a familiar example. it is an essential nutrient: you lose some every day, so you have to keep replacing it; and you can get it into your body only by eating foods that contain it.  If you eat too few of the iron-containing foods, you can develop iron-deficiency anemia: with anemia you may feel weak, tired, cold, sad, and unenthusiastic; you may have frequent headaches; and you can do very little muscular work without disabling fatigue.  Some foods are rich in iron; others are notoriously poor. If you add iron-rich foods to your diet, you soon feel more energetic.  Meat, fish, poultry, and legumes are in the iron-rich category, and an easy way to obtain the needed iron is to include these foods in your diet on a regular basis.

To appreciate the importance of dietary balance, consider a second essential nutrient, calcium. A diet lacking calcium causes poor bone development during the growing years and increases a person’s susceptibility to disabling bone loss in adult life. Most foods that are rich in iron are poor in calcium.  Cacium’s richest food sources are milk and milk products, which happen to be extraordinarily poor iron sources. Clearly, to obtain enough of both iron and calcium, people have to balance their food choices among the types of foods that provide specific nutrients. Balancing the whole diet to provide enough but not too much of every one of the 40-odd nutrients the body needs for health requires considerable juggling, however.  Food group plans that cluster rich sources of nutrients into food groups can help you to achieve dietary adequacy and balance because they recommend specific amounts of foods from each group. Balance among the food groups then become the goal.

Calorie Control-
Energy intakes should not exceed energy needs. Nicknamed calorie control, this diet characteristic ensures that energy intakes from food balance energy expenditures require for body functions and physical activity.

Intakes of certain food constituents such as fat, cholesterol, sugar and salt should be limited for health’s sake. A major guideline for healthy people is to keep fat intake below 35 percent of total calories. Some people take this to mean that they must never indulge in a delicious beefsteak or hot-fudge sundae, but they are misinformed: moderation, not total abstinence, is the key. 

As for variety, nutrition scientists agree that people should not eat the same foods even highly nutritious ones, day after day. One reason is that a varied diet is more likely to be adequate in nutrients. In addition, some less-well-known nutrients and phytochemicals could be important to health and some foods may be better sources of these than others. Another reason is that a monotonous diet deliver large amounts of toxins or contaminants. Such undesirable compounds in one food are diluted by all the other foods eaten with it and are diluted stil further if the food is not eaten again for several days. Last, variety adds interest-trying new foods can be a source of pleasure.



Serenity is yours.
When chaos looms seek the sweet Surrender of simplicity.
Gaze above at the glassy sky,
Feel each blade of green Beneath your feet,
Listen to the sound of faith Like a reed flute playing Inside your chest.
Stand in witness of Your true nature.
Remember the compassion Of the lover’s eyes,
The calm wisdom of The elder’s voice.
Go within.
Be at rest without.
Fall to your knees in gratitude.
You have all your need.
Turn from the riot of distraction.
Let it roll over and beyond you.
Serenity is yours.
It lives always within your reach.

by Ching Qu Lam

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