Bye-Bye Back Pain!

December 19, 2011

My back’s been bugging me lately. I figure my life is kind of like a doctor’s — I see clients for several hours a day, am constantly on my feet, and have started to feel a tightness in the low back that sometimes aches. Similarly, all my physician friends have been telling me how tight their low backs feel after long shifts at the hospital. This one is for you guys!

Recently, I realized that I have been relieving that compressed-back feeling in the wrong way: I kept arching my low back (think cat-cow from yoga), or twisting side to side in a futile attempt to get the tight, painful feeling to go away.

Then I discovered a little trick for low back decompression that helped immensely:

Stand facing a wall and place your hands on the wall, lower than shoulder height. Walk your feet back a few steps, flex your hips, and lower your back into a flat, “tabletop” position (so that your back is perpendicular to your thighs). If this position is difficult, slightly bend your knees. Think of your ischial tuberosities (sits bones) reaching back toward the wall behind you. Now think of letting those sits bones turn upward towards the ceiling. You will probably feel a lengthening in the hamstrings; you might even feel a stretch of your lumbar spine. Breathe in, and breathe out. As you exhale, think of your femur heads dropping back into the hip socket. Think of space being created between your lumbar verterbrae. Breathe again, and decompress.

Staying in this position, think of your sits bones changing position, from pointing towards the ceiling to reaching toward the floor. In reaching them toward the floor, find a place where your tailbone drops and becomes heavy, forming a tucked position. Breathe deeply and allow your quadratus lumborum to lengthen (remember your QL extends between your iliac crest and your bottom rib).

Now bend your right knee, and let your left sits bone reach long behind you. Then switch, bending your left knee, and letting your right sits bone reach back. Feel the fascia along your back and gluteal muscles release. Breathe deeply and switch back and forth.

Doing this stretch daily should help you feel some relief – enjoy!

About the author

Priti Radhakrishnan is a Pilates teacher at Kinected, in New York city. In addition to her journey as a Pilates teacher, Priti has worked for nearly a decade as an attorney fighting for access to affordable medicines for patients living in poverty in the developing world. She loves to combine therapeutic Pilates with her experience working in clinical and low-income settings: her dream is to ensure that Pilates is available to everyone, regardless of economic status.

Watch your back!

November 21, 2011

“Let’s face it”, I told my sister earlier this year. “At the rate your shoulders have been elevating, they will be past your ears by graduation.”

“Not fair”, she retaliated. “I’ve been working hard. Med school is no cakewalk!”

No one says that the path to becoming a doctor is easy. So those of us who work in the movement world often worry about our friends in the medical arena. As Matt McCulloch, a Master Pilates Trainer in New York City, says: Watching students progress through medical school calls to mind a “reverse evolution,” as their thoracic spines become increasingly rounded and the students subsequently lose a few centimeters in height (and he should know, he met his wife while she was in med school!). Between studying, heavy pockets on white coats, and leaning over hospital beds, White Coat Kyphosis has become today’s norm.

There is a solution: watch your back.

I put this solution to the test earlier this year. I gave my sister 3 simple tasks to do to ensure that her spine remained erect, and that her shoulders stopped rising like lava bubbling out of a volcano. The tasks involved paying attention to 3 parts of the body: Continue reading “Watch your back!”

How Dr. X got his groove back

October 31, 2011

I have a friend. Let’s call him Dr. X. And like many of my other close friends and family members, as he went through medical school and residency, he lost his core.

Before Dr. X became an M.D., homeboy had it goin’ on! He was fit, he played all kinds of sports regularly, went to the gym often, and even let it drop to the ladies that his six-pack was in fiiiine shape. But with the long study hours, the all-consuming focus on medicine, and the insane hours of lectures, rotations, and residency, everything changed. And he started to notice changes around his middle, as his rectus abdominis slackened and (gasp) love handles started to appear. His low back had even started to hurt.

He was determined to get his groove back. He called me up and bemoaned the physical changes, asking for advice. Talking to the ladies was not feeling the same. He still had at least six years left of residency and fellowship – what to do?

Continue reading “How Dr. X got his groove back”

3 Conscious Breaths: The 20-Second Meditation

August 30, 2011

As a medical student, you may currently be in one of the most demanding phases of your life.  Meeting academic challenges, taking care of patients’ needs, dealing with hectic schedules, and trying to have a personal life, could easily exhaust you.  Achieving all of this requires a calm, focused mind and a strong sense of center.  In order to expend your energy in so many different directions successfully, you have to operate from the deep, calm core of who you are.  This way, everything you do will be much more effective and seemingly effortless.

Meditation increases your ability to stay calm and focused.   It’s not as mysterious as some may think.   Continue reading “3 Conscious Breaths: The 20-Second Meditation”

Calm your mind with the Wei

August 17, 2011

You’re not done studying for the shelf exam, you still have a power point presentation to work on, and—even though you’re exhausted–you’d really like to be prepared for rounds tomorrow morning. Sigh. With so much to do, you’re not even sure where to begin. If only your mind were calm, you could do more and enjoy life more while in med school.

Enter flower essences.

Allow me to explain: Flower essences are aqueous infusions of flowers that elevate your state of mind through the acupuncture meridians. Flower essences are therefore like acupuncture without the needles. Continue reading “Calm your mind with the Wei”

The Bones manifesto

July 8, 2011

Bones is at once a skeleton and yet so much more.

As a skeleton, Bones is a complex interlinkage of, well, bones. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll see that his endoskeletal frame belies the fundamental similarity and connection between all human beings. You agree? Stripped of our skin—of our outer layers of fashion, fascia, age, sex, education, income, beliefs—we all look like skeletons. Yup, we’re all the same, bony creatures. And Bones represents that. He represents the shared, physical framework of our humanity. Continue reading “The Bones manifesto”

Manage your energy, manage your time (a.k.a. Life outside the hospital is possible!)

June 7, 2011

The long hours and high levels of stress experienced while training to become an MD are legendary.

As a former neonatal intensive care nurse, I understand the pressures and time management issues associated with being both a student and clinician.  Currently I am a Holistic Health & Nutrition coach with a mission to improve the health and wellness of health care professionals.  I truly believe that if the people delivering health care are taking care of themselves that both they and their patients will benefit. Continue reading “Manage your energy, manage your time (a.k.a. Life outside the hospital is possible!)”

Doin’ the surgeon’s shuffle

April 5, 2011

What is the surgeon’s shuffle?

You’re scrubbed-in, assisting a case in the OR that’s supposed to take three hours. But it takes six.  And while holding the surgical clamps is sooo engaging, you can’t help but notice you’re shifting your weight from side to side, and it’s not because you’re grooving to the beat of the anesthesiologist’s tunes—it’s because multiple parts of your body are terribly uncomfortable. You’re suffering from a clear case of the surgeon’s shuffle. Continue reading “Doin’ the surgeon’s shuffle”

Ashwagandha rx: Take before rounds to decrease stress

March 28, 2011

It’s time to round, you’re still scribbling your SOAP notes, and you know that you’re about to get pimped on that patient in bed 234A.  Your heart is racing, your anxious foot-tap sets in—you’re totally stressed.  Every single morning. Welcome to the realm of acute-on chronic-stress, effects of which bear no reminding. The good news is that you are not alone in feeling the effects of stress, and that there are healthy ways to protect your body from it. One of these ways is in the form of the herb, Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), an herb native to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Continue reading “Ashwagandha rx: Take before rounds to decrease stress”

Counteract white-coat kyphosis

January 22, 2011

What is white-coat kyphosis?

You wear a white coat with big pockets full of pocket guides, pens, and patient lists, a stethoscope hangs around your neck… and your shoulders are perpetually slouched, head jutting forward. Friends jokingly call you “Grandma.” You’re suffering from a clear case of White-Coat Kyphosis.

How does white-coat kyphosis affect my anatomy?

Due to the body’s chronic misalignment (e.g. rounded shoulders, increased flexion of the thoracic spine, forward head), the muscles of your anterior chest wall (e.g. pectoralis major) become chronically short and contracted, while the muscles of your upper back (e.g. erector spinae) become elongated and weak. Continue reading “Counteract white-coat kyphosis”