Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Why Stomach Strength is Important for Posture

Whether or not we host a set of six-pack abs, stomach muscles offer a great deal of body support. Between holding us upright and keeping all our organs sitting proper (along with some help from the bones), stomachs are far more important than they’re given credit for. Sure, on the inside they hold meals and start the digestive process. But on the outside, its functions are just as important.

It’s high time we start giving the mid-section a little more recognition. After all, it’s what allows us to perform hundreds of movements each day. And without a solid set of abs – even if it doesn’t look that way on the outside – the back begins to sink and slouch. Poor posture is also one of the main causes of continual back pain; it’s often the largest contributor to poor spinal health. Without proper abs strength, however, it’s easy to bend or slouch after a short period of time. Because the muscles aren’t further developed, they tire easily, leading to underlying medical issues, such as poor posture-induced pains.

Why Abs are Important

Each person’s abs connect to the spine and pelvis, allowing you to stand in a balanced position. When that connection is strained, however, stress and pressure is placed on the back, and the abs themselves. By aligning the spine, all aspects can receive the correct support that they need.

To help this natural posture improvement, strengthen abs so they are able to sustain your back throughout the day, without becoming tired or weak. This can be done through workouts, sitting on a medicine ball, or by just sitting up straight. Make a conscious effort for a certain period of time, adding minutes each day until the posture feels natural. [Boxing Scene]

Start flexing your abs for a natural, internal way to improve posture.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Natural Ways to Encourage Sleep

Getting a good night’s rest can completely change the course of your day. Because you feel rested rather than groggy, you’re able to get an earlier start, have more energy, and begin the day with gusto. When sleep doesn’t come, however, that same energetic morning start is practically impossible.

So how do you get to sleep when it won’t happen naturally? Medications can be too strong and leave you groggier than you were tired, and counting sheep becomes boring while offering little results. But what if there were natural, effective methods to follow? Ones that could train the body to know when it’s time to get to sleep each night?

Better Sleep From Daily Habits
By following healthier practices as a rule, studies have shown folks get more sleep on a regular basis. Even those that tossed and turned before. This means healthier meals and regular movement, each of which offers their own contribution to nighttime rituals. Healthier meals means the body isn’t straining to digest heavy foods, which can cause pains or other uncomfortable functions when trying to sleep. As for exercise, this helps stretch and work the muscles, also tiring them out for the night.

Other natural factors include eating several hours before bedtime (so that foods have plenty of time to settle), and going to sleep at the same time each night. Obviously some exceptions have to be made, but when winding down around the same time each day, the body naturally learns when it’s time to sleep. This eliminates the fight that can occur when you’re tired, but the rest of you doesn’t quite agree. [NPR]

From improving eating and movement routines, as well as scheduling out a clear bedtime, one’s sleep can be greatly improved. Consider these minor, yet effective, changes to get a better night of rest.  Take care of your back and body during sleep with these products from Contour Living

Friday, December 27, 2013

Improve Overall Health with Arch Supports

It’s no new discovery that taking care of one portion of the body radiates out onto others. Reducing neck stress gets rid of headaches, eating healthy offers better circulation, and so on. The same can be said for foot health, which has the ability to spread into all other areas of the body. Back pains can be cured, muscle tension eliminated, and all while the feet themselves are getting the care they deserve.

One such aspect of foot health is the addition of arch supports into one’s shoes. Made to provide extra comfort right where it’s needed most, arch supports are an easy, cost effective add-on to any pair of shoes. Many can even be moved from shoe to shoe so users only need a single pair.

But what do these shoe accessories have to offer?

When the arch of the foot lacks support – meaning it “steps” without hitting a shoe or floor surface – weight is displaced unevenly. Over time, this can break down the foot, causing pain, swelling, and an improper use of tendons. Because there isn’t proper alignment, the feet simply can’t walk as they were supposed to. This is especially true for those with high arches – the higher the arch, the larger portion of the foot that can’t hold weight when walking.

With the simple addition of arch supports, however, that natural weight balance is restored. Feet can again walk evenly, while weight and movement is displaced in a comfortable ratio. Considering they only cost a few dollars, it’s a smart investment toward improving foot (and overall body) health with each step you take.

Whether or not you experience regular foot or arch pains, it’s a good idea to look to this simple medical solution to prevent any future walking-based ailments.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Can Heavy Shoes Reduce Your Back Pain?

In the practice of Chinese medicine, cures often come in the form of something strange. Acupuncture calls for sharp needles to be placed into the body – which in theory, should cause pain; foot massages are known to affect any part of the body; and toxins can be pulled directly through one’s skin. For those of Western medicine, it’s cures like these that are hard to accept … even when they’re proven to work.

But according to a recent report, there may just be one more obscure medical cure: extremely heavy iron shoes. Wearing them on a regular basis, some say, can cure back pain altogether.

One Chinese worker, Zhang Fuxing, has been using this method for years, saying it has completely eliminated his extreme back pain. Now weighing more than 440 pounds each, he walks about 50 feet in the shoes each day. (Most start out with smaller versions, as low as 22 pounds, and work their way up to larger weight and distance intervals.)

How it Works

According to Chinese medicine, it’s not muscles that require us to lift heavy things, such as the shoes. Rather, the physical strength comes from one’s organs. By “lifting from within” people are able to hold great weights. As Fuxing says, “When you walk with your heart it will work.”

Scientifically, the weight works to stretch out one’s spine, work the legs, or cause an extreme increase in blood flow. The movement can also strengthen the core and create an advanced sense of balance among users.

The shoes’ makeup, however, is also important. Though users place straps over their existing footwear, iron is said to be good for the body, especially the heart and bones. By combining its traits of wellness with viable exercise, a growing cure has been found.

Iron Shoes In Practice

Though critics remain strong, patients all across China are trying this method. A vocal supporter of the iron shoe, Fuxing makes them himself and sells them to friends, neighbors, and online shoppers. With hundreds in circulation, patients seem to agree that the method has had an extreme and direct affect against back pain.

While there are no studies that have tested these theories (other than actual patients), it’s certainly an interesting concept to consider: the cure for back pain just may be a new set of shoes.

Read more about Fuxing and his iron shoe store at CTV News.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Hunchbacks in Pop Culture – Our Favorite Back Health Sufferers

Traditionally in society, the presence of a hunched-over back is a sign of bad health, or even alienation from the rest of the population. Cartoons used the condition as a way to show true character, live-action films offered it to create fear, and ever since, viewers have looked down upon those with irregular backs. However, bad rap aside, hunchbacks have grown into one of pop culture’s most-loved characters. Whether they had to overcome a stereotype or learn to accept themselves – abnormal features and all – here are some of our favorite spinally challenged roles.

The Beast

A title character from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” this character comes with a curved back, among other ailments (such as claws, more fur than he knows what to do with, etc.). Though the “hunch” likely comes from his transformation into an animal-like being, it’s a feature that comes to define his character, and which is ultimately overcome.

Lumpy Addams

Unfortunate name aside, Lump Addams, a cousin to the Addams family, is a key player in the series. He is the brother of fan favorite Cousin Itt, and child of Anemia and That. Though he rarely speaks, Lumpy makes appearances in both the 1991 and 1993 movie versions of the franchise.


Perhaps pop culture’s most famous hunchback, Quasimodo of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” starts the film as a kind, unloved character. Though he’s regularly told his condition is a point of shame, he and others grow to accept his differences, realizing that his loving nature more than makes up for any physical changes.


A main player in the Hindu epic, Ramayana, Manthara works as a loyal servant. In this story, however, her condition is likely a direct reflection of personality, as she uses cunning conversation and eavesdropping to alter events. The behavior eventually catches up with her, when she is nearly killed by those who she wronged – though many readers still admire her ability to overturn the main storyline’s events.

Through stories and portrayals, hunchbacks have long since been a staple in pop culture. And though the condition continues to affect the human population, hopefully it’s only a matter of time before the illness is considered a virtue of character – rather than a medium on which to condemn.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Ortho-Fiber Pillow Offers Custom Sleeping-Fit Alternative

When it comes to lying down to sleep each night, nothing feels better than your own bed. It’s comfortable, offers the just-right conditions, and you get to control everything from the sheets to the firmness of the mattress. That also means the option for specialized pillows, bed covers, or anything else to customize your sleeping experience each and every night. Custom orders, however, can be expensive and complicated – which is why it’s a good idea to look for the next best thing.

With the Ortho-Fiber pillow, sleepers can cradle their head, neck, and receive a personalized level of softness and support. And all at a fraction of the time and expense. For those who enjoy various positions each night, it might even be a better offer, as the Ortho-Fiber allows for ample movement without straining or restricting your comfort levels.

How the Pillow Works

By offering a fluffy, supportive outside and a sunken middle, the Ortho-Fiber cradles and holds the entire upper spine. The back is also aligned, eliminating craning or other pain-inducing positions throughout the night. By encouraging a proper sleeping posture – in two different heights – sleepers receive natural cures to their ongoing neck issues.

Additional features:

The pillow offers improved breathing alignment
It fits standard-sized pillow cases
It’s 100% hypoallergenic to reduce allergies or other nasal triggers
The pillow’s center offers quilted design to support in a soft, comfortable manner
It reduces pressure on face and ears – great for sleeping on one’s side or back
Sleepers can choose from two heights to find the perfect fit for your neck and back

For sleepers of all ailments, the Ortho-Fiber pillow is a budget-friendly way to offer nighttime support. Let its proven methods gently support the spine, and without introducing allergens or additional pains into your routine.

To learn more about what the pillow has to offer, head to Contour Living’s product page.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

10 Strange Facts About Back Health

From lifting with the back to finding new ways to prevent lumbar-induced pain, there are thousands of articles available on back health. In all these educational or preventative posts, however, few look to the strange-ness that can occur. Stats on freak accidents, average dollars spent on treatments, and more all contribute to the nation’s back health movement each and every day.

Here’s a compilation of some of the weirdest ones to date.

10. According to healthcare analysts, an upwards of 80% of the population will experience back issues throughout their lifetime.

9. United States citizens spend more than $50 million in back-related expenses each year – and that’s only the stats that are easy to identify.

8. Think you’re shorter in the afternoon than the evening? The body “settles,” leaving humans 1 cm shorter by the end of the day.

7. Lower back pain is the highest listed cause of disability throughout the world.

6. Think the backbones or spines are complicated? One quarter of your bones are located in the feet.

5. It takes 200 muscles to take one step – no wonder ongoing pain hurts with every movement!

4. Back pain is one of the biggest reasons for missing work – and the second-highest cause for doctor visits. (Behind only colds and/or respiratory issues.)

3. It takes twice as long to lose new muscle mass than it does to gain it – all the more reason to stretch and keep bodies flexible on a regular basis. (Muscle builds fast, don’t let those efforts go to waste!)

2. Stretch the back for added strength – the strongest muscle in the body is the tongue, beating out arms, legs, and the rear.

1. The majority of back pains were not triggered by a condition, such as arthritis, cancer, broken bones, etc. Rather, organic issues are blamed for these ongoing bouts of pains.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

4 Ways Stress Increases Muscle Pains

Having a stressful day is never fun – on any level – but according to some new research, it could also come with pain. Adding to any chances in mood, personality, or looming deadlines, stress can be literally painful. This is perhaps most seen in the muscles, especially in areas with ongoing injuries or recurring aches. However, each person can also experience these pains in a different format.

From tension to endorphins, here are the top five ways in which stress can trigger muscle pains.

4. Stress affects posture

Dealing with stressful situations can cause you to hunch over or perform jerky movements. This means the spine isn’t able to relax, interrupting circulation and everyday tension relief.

3. Emotions block vital energy

When in proper working order, the blood and other fluids flow freely throughout the body, increasing circulation and pain-relief efficiency. However, when stressed, emotions as a block, stopping important fluids from making their way.

2. Adrenaline is on short supply

It’s natural for adrenaline glands to produce endorphins that increase moods and decrease pains. But when stress happens, these glands are blocked, greatly reducing the amount of good-feeling substances available. This means ongoing stress has a direct affect on back or other recurring pains.

1. The body (and mind) can’t relax

Stress means you aren’t able to completely relax – this causes both the body and mind to be on edge. Without this much-needed relaxing time, muscles are tense, and don’t get the ability to rest and rejuvenate.

When it comes to stress, there are several triggers that can cause additional body pain. While some can manifest within the specific body parts (such as the back), other aches simply take place wherever the body is most vulnerable. To help avoid these stress-induced pains, look for less stressful situations – and the ability to fully relax – as an everyday rule.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Is Your Purse Causing Back Pain?

Carrying a purse – of any size – can be a convenient perk. It holds all your things in one, easy-to-find-location, it ensures belongings are organized in close proximity, and you can even use it to stash away smaller purchased items. But no matter the size or weight of your bag, it could actually be causing excess pains. Because of the weight and repetitive nature of carrying a shoulder bag, it’s a practice that might actually cause more harm than good.

Here’s why:

When wearing a purse, the body is lopsided, causing muscles to tighten or strain in certain areas. And the heavier the bag, the more weight it’s pulling on the neck or shoulders. Basically, the more a bag is used, the worse the side effects will become.

This carrying practice also causes the body to walk in an uncomfortable position. Naturally, legs and arms swing to help regulate pace and stride – known as a gait. However, weighing down one-side causes an uneven swing in either the upper or lower sections of the body, if not both. Over time, this can lead to uneven muscles and posture. For instance, one who’s right-handed will keep their purse on the right shoulder, which can mean more developed muscles on that side, less of a swing when walking, and a shoulder that sits higher than the other.

Next comes tightness in the muscles carrying extra weight, or even spasms. The neck, upper, and middle sections of the back can all be affected, suffering bouts of pain or even recurring conditions, such as arthritis. Severe cases of purse-induced pain can even come with tension headaches, which are also brought on by muscle strains, as well as frequent lifting required with purse toting. [Huffington Post]

If you suffer from back pain, it may be time to consider your purse-carrying habits. Lighten the load or talk to your doctor today for healthier walking habits.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

5 Reasons to Give a Back Massage for the Holidays

When shopping for the person who has everything, nothing says “what a thoughtful gift” like a massage. Whether in the form of a gift certificate, a power-operated chair, or a hand-held back scrawler, it’s a great way to offer comfort whenever it’s needed most. When considering the gift of massage this holiday season, consider these five compelling reasons as to why it should top your list.

5. It’s Self-Redeemable

Though it’s given around the holidays, massages can be scheduled for any time of year – right when your giftee needs it most. These post-dated presents offer a chance to redeem some holiday cheer even long after the decorations have been put away. (However, double check on gift card dates to see just how long their lifespan lasts.)

4. It Relaxes and Loosens the Back Muscles

A massage of any kind can work to ease any receiver into a more relaxed state, reducing tension, muscle tightness, and overall worries. This is often a must-need for those with stressful jobs or schedules.

3. It Can Lower Stress and Back Pains

For those with repeat back pain, a massage is a great way to relieve muscles. You can even ask for recommended types of pressure treatments, based on the location and severity of each person’s pain.

2. It’s a Gift Few Will Buy for Themselves

Though some often indulge in self-funded massages, most write it off as an unnecessary expense. What a great way to show a loved one they not only deserve a relaxing break, but that you’re willing to provide it for them.

1. It’s a Personal, Yet Universal Gift

Massages come in all lengths and types and can work into any way of life. Opt for different areas of techniques or backgrounds (acupuncture, deep tissue, aromatherapy, etc.) to best fit every massage-deserving person on your shopping list.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Best Sleeping Positions for a Bad Back

When crawling into bed each night, sometimes the worst positions are just the most comfortable. We sleep on our sides, our stomachs, and flop arms into odd angles. Those sleeping positions, however, just may contribute to back pain throughout the day. By stretching the muscles awkwardly or putting weight on the wrong areas, tings can occur several hours later.

To not only avoid pain-causing positions, but to help your back while sleeping, try these three back-friendly set ups. (Even Dr. Oz agrees.)

The Soldier

When achieving “the soldier,” a sleeper must lay on their back through the entire night. Look for a supportive mattress that will hold the rear, spine, and legs in place while achieving this pain-free night of rest.

Note: The soldier should be avoided by those with sleep apnea, as gravity allows the throat to become blocked, which is dangerous for those with difficult nighttime breathing. Back sleeping can also increase one’s chances of snoring throughout the night.

Sleeping Beauty

Graceful as it may sound, the “sleeping beauty” pose offers hard-hitting results against spinal pressure. Lay on your side with the back slightly curved, knees bent, and the arms crossed. Add a pillow between the knees to offer added hip support, or leave as is to achieve a restful position.

This is also considered one of the only side-effect-free ways to sleep – causing no outside pains or snoring tendencies.

Dead Man’s Float

Stomach down and head cocked to the side, the “dead man’s float” offers a position that any frontal sleeper can enjoy. Arms under the pillow can also work to prop the head and offer upper limb comfort.

Over time, this can cause neck twinges, which may or may not manifest in recurring pain. To avoid these side effects, do without the pillow or find another place for the arms. Another pillow under the hips will also prop the lower end of the body, evening out one’s levels. [Dr. Oz]

To gain a healthy night’s sleep, remember to look toward these back-friendly positions during all hours of the night.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The History of the Recliner: Back Pain Relief on the Rise

The recliner has long since been a staple to the American home. They’re comfortable, offer a slick way to put up one’s feet, and can be called upon on even the worst of days. Folks search for years to find the perfect fit, then spend evenings leaded back with a newspaper or a TV remote.

But once upon a time, chairs sat at 90-degree angles.

People either sat in a chair, or when it was time for relaxing, they laid down. Those were the options and there wasn’t much in-between, if any. But in 1850, the world saw its first chair/bed combo in the form of a French “reclining camp bed.” Equipped with padded armrests, the model could easily switch between chair and bed, thus eliminating the need for extra furniture. Soon an American version was also released, and was made to hold one’s book or papers for easy reading.

Decades later, in 1928, a set of cousins got a patent for a wooden recliner, an event that led to the creation of La-Z-Boy. (Though the first recliner is said to have been owned by Napoleon III.) Then in 1930, the cousins, Edward Knabush and Edwin Shoemaker, added mechanical reclining features and swapped their wooden chair for one that was upholstered.

Next for the recliner came new engineering, created by Daniel F. Caldemeyer, after his work in the U.S. Air Force. Caldemeyer also added features such as the footrest, heating, and massage, before patenting the world’s first entertainment center. His new reclining model was so efficient by way of use and kinetics that NASA used it for its astronaut seats in Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo.

President Lyndon Johnson even received 50 Caldemeyer’s recliners as a Christmas gift from the Secret Service, one of which he used to recover from gall bladder surgery. [NPR]

While today’s options are certainly more advanced by way of fabrics and storage, their reclining features still stems from these same mechanics. With just a few breakthroughs, those everywhere can enjoy their favorite chair … now with the ability to relax and recline.