Staying Grounded: How to Keep Your Feet & Ankles Healthy and Reduce Risk of Injuries

Do you have happy feet and ankles?  Yes, it may be an odd question and hard to define just what happy feet and ankles are.  For the purposes of this blog, happy feet do not refer to the animated movie or how you feel after getting a pedicure.  People that are unhappy with their feet and ankles are easy to pick out in a crowd.  They can’t stand very long, have possible issues walking or running, are prone to injuries, and may have swelling or inflammation regularly. 

Foot and ankle problems are not race, gender, sexual preference, age, or religious affiliation biased.  Many problems with your feet and ankles could be alleviated, or at least made less severe, by treating the muscles around your ankle joints a lot better.  Your knees could thank you also for being nicer to your feet and ankles.  Even your hips and low back benefit from heathy feet and ankles. 

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

April is National Foot Health Awareness Month by the American Podiatric Medical Association.  Most people take the health of their feet and ankles for granted, or that pain will stay with them forever.  This blog is to educate you to change your thinking on both.  Your feet and ankles are the foundation of balance and stability for the body when standing.  The major muscles around the ankle joint are the soleus and gastrocnemius, which compose the calf, and the anterior and posterior tibialis, which are on the shin.  The calf muscle points the toes down and the shin muscles point the toes up.  It’s vital to keep them in balance to avoid injuries and dysfunction all the way up to your lower back.

Typically, most people have overly tight calf muscles and overly weak shin muscles.  The calf muscles are one of the easiest muscles to stretch on the body.  The first stretch is very simple:  stand in a staggered stance with your feet facing forward, the back heel on the ground, front leg slightly flexed, back leg straight, and lean forward slightly.  Do not bounce, ease into the stretch and hold for 20 seconds then switch feet.  The second stretch is to put your heel on the ground in front of wall and point your toe up high as you can, like your foot is on the gas pedal.  Lean forward into the stretch keeping your toes pointed up, do not bounce, and keep the leg straight.  Hold each foot for around 20 seconds.

Calf stretch with toe up
Staggered stance calf stretch

Strengthening the shin muscles is also simple and can be integrated into your normal lifting program or done at home for overall health.  Walk like you have swim fins on, exaggerating your toes pointing up with each step as your heel strikes the ground.  Walk 30 total steps for 1-2 sets.  Another simple, not always easy, exercise to do is practice standing on one foot for 15-20 seconds.  If your balance is bad, stand close to a wall or stable object you can hold if you lose your balance.  Balance is a function of proprioception, how your body reacts to various stimuli in space.  It is a use it or lose it skill and can be regained through consistent practice. 

Keeping proper length-tension relationships with the muscles around your ankles can go a long way towards preventing Achilles’ tendon injuries, ACL injuries, low back pain, and shin splints.  While this list is not inclusive of all feet and ankle injuries, nor is it a fail proof method to avoiding all feet and ankle injuries, keeping the mobility, flexibility, and strength of this important joint is crucial for Activities of Daily Living (ADL).  If you’re a runner or weekend sports warrior, healthy feet and ankles are mandatory for providing the enjoyment you get from participating in such activities. 

Strengthening the anterior tibialis

For people with structural issues in their feet and ankles, please see a medical specialist who can help with your specific problems.  Wearing proper footwear for your activities that is in good condition is also important for avoiding injuries.  Ladies, high heels look great, but they are not your friend for keeping the ankles happy.  Also, performing squats elevating your heels also increases your chances for injuries by shortening your calf muscles and restricting range of motion.  Do NOT believe magazines and websites that tell you this position is great for your glutes.

To help you with ankle joint health, I have written an online course just for you called Overcoming Chronic Pain Through Stretching & Strengthening.  It provides pictures and videos for stretches and exercises that can help everything I mentioned in this blog.  I also guarantee or your money back after completing the course, if you do not see the results you desire.  Trust me, this can be life changing now and for years to come.  Check it out and also my website for more details and how to sign up today!

On Your Butt and In Pain – From My Book The Athlete in the Game of Life

I have a client who has no choice — she has to sit on the job.

That’s because she’s an amputee who lost her left lower leg in a lawn mower accident as a child. She now works in medicine, assisting surgeries for most of the day and in her office for the remaining hours—and during all that time, she’s sitting. When she started experiencing pain because of it, she came to me. Since I’m a Corrective Exercise Specialist, I was able to assess and work with her in addressing the dysfunction in her hips and hamstrings, the result of prolonged sitting.

Many fitness trainers, however, ignore those particular muscles. They’re used to guys who want to bulk up the upper half of their bodies and women who focus on glutes, quadriceps, triceps, and anything abdominal related. So, I felt gratified and validated when my client showed me an article in a magazine dedicated to helping amputees in all aspects of life. The article suggested all the exercises I had her do in previous sessions to increase mobility and strength in her hamstrings and hips — and she was impressed that I knew to focus on those muscles, since I had never worked with an amputee before.  I told her it was simply a result of all my experience working with executives and other individuals who were relatively sedentary — I learned over time where the physical problems hit the hardest and how to correct those imbalances.

It all centers on the hips. From an evolution standpoint, we weren’t built to sit for long periods of time. Your muscles have to work overtime to support it, and you end up stretching hamstring muscles, tightening your quadriceps and remodeling your hips. Also, nerves can become compressed and common issues such as sciatica (back pain) can occur.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

When you stop sitting and decide to get upright, you’ve got more potential problems on your hands — or more accurately, in your hips. When you go to stand up, you end up trying to put the pelvis back into a standing position and some of these muscles get irritated and strained in the process. Lower back pain is a frequent result. The hips, while often overlooked, are critical to your body’s alignment of your legs and torso. They must be strong to do that job — but sitting weakens them and gravity suddenly becomes your worst enemy. Your legs will collapse inward, put pressure on your kneecaps and eventually cause flat feet.

But at any rate, now you’re standing. When you go ahead and take a step, however, and the hips are no longer strong enough to hold themselves up, you end up with hip pain. Meanwhile, the lower back tries to take some of the burden off the hips — and that’s not good for the lower back. The pain that results travels up the spine and in your neck. And you can also end up throwing out your lower back.

All of this negatively affects your posture, because you’re twisting your muscles into positions they don’t much care for. Those muscles become strained and it creates more weakness in your body.

Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

The fact is mobility in the hips is key to movement in all directions. The glutes are the largest muscle of the body and responsible for producing power when you squat, lunge, jump, swing a golf club, pick up a bag of mulch, and all other movements related to bending at the knee and lowering your hips. All those movements become much more difficult when your hips lack the strength and flexibility to function properly. As you grow older, you begin to have basic balance issues and falls are the unfortunate result. I actually see this developing in people as young as their early 40’s!

To order my book, The Athlete in the Game of Life, go to my website mattpeale.com and click the banner at the top. You can also download my free report on back pain to enter for a free signed copy of my book. You win either way!

You Have “Text Neck”. Why? Because You’re Staring Down at Your Phone All Day

“Text Neck” is a term coined by Dr. Dean Fishman, after he noticed more and more  people were coming to his office with the same complaint — they all had neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, or numbness and tingling into the upper extremity. This was concurrent with the rapid rise of smartphone usage.

After studying the new phenomenon, it was found that text neck (also called “iHunch” by some) leads to premature wear-and-tear on the spine and degeneration. It’s also become a pretty widespread condition. “It is an epidemic or, at least, it’s very common,” Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, told The Washington Post. “Just look around you, everyone has their heads down.”[1]

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

You might ask, “So what’s the big deal with putting your head down to check out an email?”

Fair enough. Let’s start with the fact that the typical human head weighs about 12 pounds. And the neck is fine with holding that amount of weight up, it was made to carry heads around, right?

Right. However…

When you bend that neck forward and down to check out something on your phone, the weight impact increases on your cervical spine (the structure of bones, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and tendons that extends from the base of your skull to the top of your shoulders). For example, at a 15-degree angle, your head puts 27 pounds of pressure on your neck. At a 30-degree angle, it’s 40 pounds. At 60 degrees, it’s 60 pounds.

That’s a lot. 

Imagine carrying an 8-year-old around your neck several hours a day (and just imagine it, don’t try to actually do it!) and you’ll get the idea.

As you stretch the tissue for a long period of time, it gets sore and inflamed. That causes muscle strain, pinched nerves, herniated disks and, over time, it can even remove the neck’s natural curve. And the other thing to keep in mind is you’re also engaging in poor posture when you’re in the “text neck” position and that causes other problems. Experts say it can reduce lung capacity by as much as 30 percent as well as cause neurological issues, depression and heart disease.

Oh, and those headaches you might think are being caused by the tension and stress of your job? The truth is it’s highly likely they’re being caused by text neck because it’s another common symptom. They feel exactly like tension headaches…but aren’t.

I know it’s silly to think all these bad things can happen just as a result of staring at your smartphone. But Google “text neck” for yourself and you’ll see for yourself — these physical outcomes are all the real deal.


[1] Lindsay, Bever, “Text Neck Is Becoming an Epidemic and Could Wreck Your Spine,” The Washington Post, 11/20/2014 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/11/20/text-neck-is-becoming-an-epidemic-and-could-wreck-your-spine/

If you want to read more about “Text Neck”, and other chronic pain issues, go to my website and order my new book Athlete in the Game of Life.

1 Move to Diagnose Your Mobility and Flexibility, Guaranteed

“I haven’t got time for the pain,” was the jingle for a commercial in the 80’s and maybe 90’s.  Granted, it was for menstrual cramps and this pain specific pain does not apply to everyone!  The mantra, however, is what most people live by as they just figure pain can be hidden, avoided, and swept under the rug.  While you think this is possible and will stick to your story regardless of how bad it hurts your quality of life, I know better as a Corrective Exercise Specialist! 

Am I a soothsayer, profit, or wizard?  It’s distinctly possible if you ask me.  The truth is I’m trained to look at your movement patterns and can diagnose why you have problems with your mobility, flexibility, and strength from one simple exercise.  Is it magic?  Well my one of my nicknames is Magic Matt, but the ability to slip into VIP areas unseen has nothing to do with helping you to relieve your chronic pain.

What is this unseemly exercise I talk about?  It is the overhead squat.  A simple move raising your arms straight above your head and performing a squat.  You can hold a PVC pipe or broomstick above your head to show more of what pains you if so desired.  How can this simple, not necessarily easy, move show all your postural sins?  The movement places you in an extreme, not damaging, position that requires motor control, mobility, flexibility, and strength from every joint in your body.  Because you have nothing to hold for balance and form, everything has to work in unison to function properly.

The main culprit that destroys overhead squat form is sitting for long periods of time.  It is easy for me to diagnose these issues by the way you lower yourself, raise yourself, and what happens to your fully extended arms in the process.  Here are three areas that cannot be hidden no matter how hard you try:

  • Arms falling forward – this shows me how tight your chest and mid back muscles are, in addition to the weakness in your upper back and shoulder areas
  • Excessive forward lean – this shows the tightness in your hip flexors, calves, and quadriceps, in addition to weakness in your hamstring, shin and glute areas
  • Knees caving in – this shows the tightness in your groin muscles, in addition to the weakness in your hip rotator area

Performing the overhead squat is one of the first assessments I do with clients and is the basis for their exercise program.  Nobody is perfect, and that’s okay.  We all have tight and corresponding weak areas to work on.  The pros and cons are that this struggle never ends.  Humans are creatures of habit, and we like to be efficient to use minimal physical and mental energy in all we do.  Your job makes you do the same thing for hours daily, and yest, sitting is a repetitive movement through lack of movement.  This repetitive pattern produces overuse injuries and pain when not dealt with properly.  Humans don’t like change, even though change is where growth happens physically and mentally. 

The goal of using the overhead squat is to quickly and easily assess progress through an exercise program to keep challenging you and giving you the results, you desire.  The cool thing about the human body is that change happens when you stay consistent to stretching and strengthening.  I see it daily in my clients and they comment about the pain they don’t feel anymore.  Can it work for you?  Absolutely!  I’m offering a free overhead squat assessment to the first 10 people who email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com, and put OHSA in the subject line.  What’s the catch?  You will be amazed how much I can tell about you!

Working with a trainer or corrective exercise specialist like myself can help you integrate these types of movements safely and effectively.  To learn what a comprehensive corrective exercise program can do for you, go to mattpeale.com.  Who is a corrective exercise program good for?  Everyone!  We are all athletes in the game of life, it’s time you treated yourself like it!

Text Neck: How to Overcome the New Pandemic in Neck Pain

Imagine a society where hardly anyone looks where their walking and is constantly staring down at an object in their hands.  They experience tension headaches and their bodies have remodeled themselves to look alien-like with their heads protruding forward and shoulders looking like Igor the hunchback.  Oh, that’s actually today’s current culture!

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

Pick up your head and look around.  Does your neck hurt just do that motion?  Do you find it difficult to hold your head up straight, ears lined up with your shoulders?  If you answered yes, then you have forward head position (FHP), which is also called “Text Neck”.  Spinal surgeons report an increase in young patients who are experiencing upper back and neck pain due to cell phone use (Cuéllar & Lanman, 2017). A new diagnosis, known as text neck, has been established to describe this condition (Cuéllar & Lanman, 2017). 

Muscles, tendons, and ligaments can be altered over time from postural malalignments and injuries.  The body adjusts its shape to compensate for how you move and don’t move on a daily basis multiplied by weeks, months, and years.  This action is called spinal remodeling, and can work positively to reshape yourself into correct position, and negatively, which is likely your current postural alignment. Spinal remodeling increases the risk for degenerative changes to occur in the spine over the lifespan (Pop, Mihancea, & Debucean, 2018; Stone et al., 2015). Similarly, adults can also develop pain and other musculoskeletal symptoms by maintaining poor posture when working at their desk or workstation for extended periods of time. For example, frequent computer users commonly experience pain in the cervical spine, shoulders, back, and wrist (Borhany, Shahid, Siddique, & Ali, 2018).

How does this affect you in these pandemic times?  People working from home are spending more time on their laptops and devices than ever before.  Work is stressful enough, and you may think that is the cause of your headaches.  Sitting with abnormal head and neck posture while using computers on a regular basis is also associated with higher incidences of headaches (Mingels, Dankaerts, van Etten, Thijs, & Granitzer, 2016).  Does this ring a bell for you? 

The more we rely on technology, the more we fall into these patterns I’m talking about.  The good news is you can overcome them without needing surgery and missing work in physical therapy.  An exercise prescription can be the best medicine, and it’s a whole lot cheaper than pills and potions!  Here are a few tips to help you deal with FHP:

Foam roll your upper back and shoulders (thoracic spine) 2-3 days per week.

Thoracic spine foam rolling

Stretch the muscles of your neck and trapezius by holding each stretch for 15-20 seconds in 1-2 rounds.

Stretching your neck muscles

Strengthen your scapula by practicing retraction movements.  Remodeling back into proper posture is not solely based on stretching.  Strengthening the corresponding weak muscles is critical.  Perform 2-3 sets of 15 reps with heavy enough weight that you can’t do more than the suggested reps.

Ball squat with scapular retraction

Whether you’re currently working out or not doesn’t matter to integrate these stretches and exercises into your lifestyle.  If you don’t belong to a gym, don’t worry about it.  Use what you have at home to do this simple routine.

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

3 Exercises for an Improved Golf Stance & Swing

The pandemic gave me an opportunity to renew my passion for golf.  I grew up playing it sporadically with lessons from my grandfather and father, who were close to scratch golfers themselves.  In my 30’s and 40’s, golf took a back burner to life and reduced to an annual tournament with my alumni Sigma Nu brothers.  Now as I get back into it, and have become the author of Athlete in the Game of Life and a Corrective Exercise Specialist, the importance of building mobility into your fitness and wellness regiment is crucial for a proper golf swing.

Getting ready for my next round

To hit a golf ball where you want and the distance you want is almost counter-intuitive.  It’s not a baseball swing requiring a massive amount of swing speed and torque.  With technology, golf clubs can be purchased to match your natural swing speed to hit the ball competitively regardless of age and gender.  Obviously getting lessons from a professional is a big help, yet that can only take you so far if you have back pain, neck pain, and poor mobility to execute even a fundamentally sound swing.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Working from home and being more sedentary since the pandemic started, has created more problems for older adults, executives, and golf enthusiasts.  While golf courses have been deemed essential and a “safe” activity, preparing yourself to execute a good golf swing has become harder.  Everyone thinks about working your rotational muscles as the only way to hit the ball farther.  If your posture, grip, and address aren’t right, it doesn’t matter how good your rotation is.  I’m going to share three exercises to help with your posture.

Dumbbell scaption
  1. Dumbbell scaption – Being able to retract your scapula and keep your upper back straight in address sets your rotation up for success.  Most people bent over a laptop all day have a weak upper back because your shoulders are rounded.  You can’t bring the club around into its on-plane position in a full back swing with rounded shoulders.  The dumbbell scaption strengthens and mobilizes your upper back and shoulders to stay retracted and in position to bring the club up to parallel to the ground, and positioned with your lever arm straight.  To perform, stand up tall with your shoulders retracted.  With or without light dumbbells held in a thumbs up position, raise your arms in front of you at a 45-degree angle from your body.  Bring them to shoulder height and lower in a controlled manner.  Perform 2-3 sets of 15 repetitions.
  2. Glute-hamstring bridges – Sitting lengthens and weakens your glutes and hamstrings, contributing to low back pain.  Addressing the golf ball with proper posture requires strength and mobility in your hamstrings and glutes to generate the power you need.  Your upper body hinges at your waist with knees slightly flexed depending on the club you’re using.  If your low back is in constant pain because it’s weak, you can’t even address the ball properly, and no golf lesson can fix that.  Lie flat on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent as you would for doing a sit-up or crunch.  Your arms are at your side palms up to prevent them from helping you perform the movement.  Push your feet into the floor and raise your hips to fully extend them.  Keep your knees in line with your feet and don’t let them flare out or rotate inward.  Slowly lower your hips to just above touching the ground and repeat the motion.  Perform 2-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.
  3. Straight leg/Romanian deadlifts – For the same reasons mentioned with weakened hamstrings, the ability to hinge at the hip is vital to maintaining proper posture in your stance.  Performing straight leg deadlifts requires you to practice hinging and strengthens your hamstrings, glutes, low back, and abdominals.  This exercise brings the benefits of dumbbell scaption and glute-hamstring bridges into harmony.  You can use a barbell or dumbbells, I suggest a broomstick or PVC pipe for beginners and I’ll explain why.  To perform the movement properly, you must half a straight back with retracted shoulders, knees slightly flexed (I call it soft), head in neutral alignment with your chin tucked, and push your hips back allowing your weight to be on your heels.  Hinge your upper body without bending your knees more into a 45 to 90-degree angle.  You will feel this in your hamstrings and possibly calf muscles if they are tight.  Raise your body up into full upright position again after the hinge.  For those beginners, hold a broomstick behind you with the back of your head, between your shoulder blades, and at the bottom of your back all touching it.  Keep this contact on all 3 points and hinge.  If any of the points come off the broomstick, adjust your range of motion or posture.  Once you master this, move to a barbell or dumbbells for more resistance.  Beginners practice the hinge for 3 sets of 15-20 reps, more advanced lifters do 3 sets of 8-10 reps with resistance.
Glute-hamstring bridge

You can integrate these exercises into your regular workouts if you’re not doing so already.  The golf swing is about tempo and rhythm, not raring back and being out of control.  Unfortunately, most of us rare back with poor posture at address and we’re doomed to only be lucky when he hit a good shot.  Putting everything together: lessons, mobility, strength, and practice, yields you the results you want.

Straight leg deadlift

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

3 Muscles to Stretch for a More Powerful Tennis Serve

The feeling of a hard-overhand smash for the winning game point, or the bullet ace serve to preserve a victory can be indescribable!  To accomplish this feat, the body has to work in harmony with all of your joints having the mobility to act as a unit.  Any dysfunction in one area such as your ankles, and you can’t generate the power needed to hit that winning shot.  Because you sit most of the day at work, your body molds itself into movement patterns that aren’t conducive to a winning tennis game, even if you are taking lessons.  I’m going to help you with the three body parts to stretch than can give you the mobility you need to be the consistent winning player.

Prone Band Assisted Hip Flexor Stretch
  1. Hip Flexors – When you sit all day, your hip flexors and quadriceps are in a constant contracted position, which makes them overly tight.  Over time, this pulls your hips into a forward and downward tilt, making it difficult and painful to stand-up straight.  Tight hip flexors and quadriceps do not allow full hip extension at the height of your overhand smash or serve.  You limit your power and ability to flex your lower back and also bring your shoulder back into proper position.  Stretch your hip flexors and quads before and after each practice and match.  Hold the stretch for 20 seconds each, you can do one or two sets of stretches. 
  2. Biceps – Having your elbows bent, typing on your computer keeps your biceps in a constant slightly contracted state.  Over time, this leads to tightness and an inability to extend your arms fully.  If you can’t get full arm and shoulder extension, there is now way to get on top of the ball to hit it accurately and with power.  Tight biceps can also lead to tight forearm flexors, which contributes to tennis elbow.  Racquet sports such as tennis have been linked to tennis elbow due to the high biomechanical stresses placed on the forearm and wrist with gripping and swinging the racquet (Abrams, Renstrom, & Safran, 2012). In an overhead tennis serve, the wrist extensors must contract to assist in decelerating the forward moving arm.  Making sure your biceps have flexibility and full elbow range of motion is crucial to proper form in any overhead motion.  Similar to the hip flexors, perform a couple sets of stretches for each arm before and after practice or a match.
  3. Pectorals – In performing overhead squat assessments with clients, a typical symptom seen are the arms falling forward from tight pectoral muscles.  These muscles are also typically contracted from hunching over a computer or device all day.  The shoulders round and close in from hands being on a keyboard and wrapped around a phone or tablet.  Leaning into your screen also adds to this tightening with a forward head position.  You can see this noticeably on people who have a closed off appearance with their shoulders.  Tight chest muscles don’t allow for full shoulder retraction to get the racquet behind your head and extended for power and accuracy.  Bend your arm into an L position with the forearm at a 90-degree angle to your upper arm.  With erect posture, lean into any doorway and hold the stretch for 20 seconds.
Standing Pectoral Stretch
Static Biceps Stretch

Obviously practicing and working with a professional is optimal for developing a powerful and consistent service game.  Don’t underestimate the power you lose from these tight muscle groups.  Integrate the stretches into your practice and training to see better results than solely working with a coach.  You’re not investing time and money just to be average, take this info and raise your game to the next level!

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

Low Back Pain: The Silent Killer From Sitting

Back pain.  What does your mind conjure up when you read those words, someone says they have back pain, or you hear about it from an advertisement?  The back is a large general area on you body and pain can radiate from all areas.  I have hurt my back a few times lifting weights on maximal type lifts, and moving in the same manner I do on a daily basis in the gym.  Where do most people who sit all day experience pain?  In their low back, and that’s also precisely where I injure myself also.

The presence of low back pain is significant in U.S. society with up to 35% of individuals experiencing reduced activity due to chronic back conditions and approximately 7% of that number with back issues that persist for 6 months or more (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019).  What executives, professionals, and older adults don’t often understand is their posture from sitting all day is the main culprit to their back pain.  You don’t have to sling heavy loads on a farm or construction site to put your low back at risk for chronic pain.  Overuse injuries are also based on posture and position, not just physical actions of the same repetitive motions.

Low back pain is very complex with several potential causes, which include but are not limited to muscle imbalances, decreased mobility, disc pathology, facet joint dysfunction, joint degeneration (spondylosis), and spinal instability (Cheatham & Kolber, 2016).   Let’s take a person who sits an average of eight hours a day between the commute and their career.  The muscles of the Lumbopelvic Hip Complex (LPHC), take on the brunt of sitting sins, which manifest themselves into low back pain (LBP).  Sitting weakens the glutes and hamstrings while tightening the quadriceps, hip flexors, and adductor complex.  In short, this means a person cannot bend their knees to lower themselves down into a squat position.  Whenever they bend down to pick up a box, bag of mulch, barbell, etc., they use the muscles of their low back instead of their glutes and quads in unison.  The low back is not built to take on such loads and is now compromised for high injury potential.  The weight of the load itself also does not need to be of a maximal resistance.

In my upcoming book, An Athlete in the Game of Life, due out in late 2020, I specifically discuss how these types of muscle dysfunctions in your 40’s can negatively affect life 20 years and more into the future.  Let’s give one example in my blog of the how and why LBP can be detrimental.  The body likes to be efficient in all movement, using the path of least resistance.  When one muscle group dominates another, it creates dysfunction and altered length-tension relationships.  In normal language it creates what I explained in the previous paragraph, one muscle group substitutes doing the work of the primary group because the body is used to moving in that way from tightness and weakness.  This in turn makes other joints of the body compensate for the dysfunction and imbalances leading to pain in say the knees or neck because everything must shift just to pick up that case of water.  Over time, you repeat this process as the “new normal” and the nerves reroute everything to this altered pattern.  One day you shift a little differently and BAM!!!  Now you’re stuck hunched over in extreme agony and out of work.

Did that scenario ring a bell for you or someone else you know?  Hopefully it rang an alarm also!  Hurting your back once makes you prone to hurting it again worse the next time unless you stretch, strengthen, and relearn the proper movements for picking up that case of water properly.  Obviously, you’re very successful in your career and don’t have time to workout hours daily.  This is where involving a Corrective Exercise Specialist as myself can assist you to be your best while not compromising your career and income.

Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

Suffering silently and thinking LBP is part of the sacrifice you pay for being a successful executive is false.  You don’t need surgery as the first responder.  Stretch those quadriceps and hip flexors a few times a day and add some hamstring and glute strengthening exercises before or after work in your bedroom. 10 minutes a day can pay big dividends now and 25 years down the road, guaranteed!

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

3 Exercises For ACL Injury Prevention

You hear and read about them all the time in professional sports.  If you’re lucky, or unlucky enough to  watch a game when it happens, your stomach usually gets a little queasy.  Sometimes they happen and nobody even touches the athlete, he or she just goes down in a heap wincing in pain.  Have you guessed what I’m talking about?  If you said, “ACL injuries for $1,000, Matt,” then you are correct!

“But I’m not an athlete now,” or “I sit at my desk all day, there is no way I can have a torn ACL.”  Your statements may have some merit, but not totally.  ACL injuries are the most common type of non-contact knee injury in the United States.  According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine Corrective Exercise Specialist textbook: ACL injuries can affect both males and females of all ages and it is estimated that there are over 200,000 ACL injuries annually in the United States (Donnell-Fink et al., 2015).  There are not 200,000 pro football, basketball, and soccer players in the U.S., so the numbers have to come from other sources.

Many ACL injuries occur from indirect contact, such as changing direction and cutting, due to altered lower-extremity neuromusculoskeletal control imbalances resulting from anterior forces, lateral forces, rotational forces or a combination of all three forces on the knee (Gagnier, Morgenstern, & Chess, 2013; Paterno et al., 2010; Weiss & Whatman, 2015).  What does all this technical jargon mean for you, the person over 35 who maybe is just a casual gym member or enjoys being active?  It means you are still susceptible to an ACL injury through overuse of muscles doing the same activity, and/or underuse from poor posture and sitting.

The good news, with a few adjustments to your workout routine, ACL injuries can be reduced by 51 to 62% (Gagnier et al., 2013).  Even if you don’t workout and just enjoy activities like tennis, hiking, golf, or gardening, implementing the following types of exercises can pay big dividends in keeping your knees safe.

Three exercises to lower your chances of an ACL injury:

Side lunge
  • Side lunges – step out to one side laterally with both feet pointing forward.  Keeping your knee also pointing forward, lower yourself to where your thigh is parallel to the floor and your opposite leg is straight, butt out like you’re sitting down.  Then extend your knee standing back up and return to the starting position.  Repeat all one side or alternate, using just your body weight first and progressing to added resistance as you get confident and stronger.  Do 12-15 reps per leg as a beginning point.
  • Side shuffles – get into athletic position and shuffle without crossing your feet.  Take it slow at first making sure you stay low with your knees pointed forward and not internally rotating as you take a step.  What’s athletic position?  Look at a linebacker before the snap.  Lead with the right foot then stop and come back leading with the left foot.
  • Side-step up to balance – stand next to a step/box/elevated platform of about 24’ high.  Step up laterally and hold that balance position on one foot for a 1-2 count, then step down under control.  Repeat 15 times and switch feet.  Add resistance when balancing becomes easier.
Side step up to balance start
Side step up to balance finish

These exercises will strengthen the connective tissues on the outside of your knees in addition to the muscles in your glutes.  Stretch your groin muscles to help with proper muscle function and stability in these movements.  ACL injuries occur from weakness due to tightness on the inner thigh and weakness on the outer thigh.  Watch your confidence moving in all directions improve without over reliance on just your dominant side.  Typically, the subordinate side is the one injured from lack of use just from a simple step.

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

Reducing Knee Pain From Running Starts in Your Hips

Working from home and sheltering in place have changed the exercise and fitness landscape.  Home gyms popped up in garages and living rooms across the country.  Walking, running, and biking around neighborhoods gained a big boost in popularity also just to leave the house.  With a few posts from Instagram and YouTube, executives and older adults with little exercise experience found themselves going at with passion and fervor.  The common side effects of these new activities are overuse injuries from to hard, to fast, to soon without proper rest.  Some experienced workout peeps also have similar issues for the same definition of insanity:  doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

Millions of successful executives and professionals enjoy running as their preferred method of exercise.  Running is great, and also has a huge overuse injury rate.  One of my most dedicated personal training clients is also a running fanatic and doesn’t understand the term rest and overuse which is causing her knee pain.  Couple this with the fact she’s a psychologist and sitting long hours daily working with her clients.  Even after encouragement, stern warnings, and threats I give her, she still does not stretch and do her muscular homework.  As a result, she has knee pain and consistent fatigue.

“Runner’s knee”, or the proper name, IT-Band Syndrome, is a common overuse injury among runners due to gait issues.  Pain is felt along the outside of the knee even though the cause originates along the side of the top part of the hip, the iliotibial band (IT-band).  IT-band syndrome is the result of inflammation and irritation of the distal portion of the iliotibial tendon as it rubs against the lateral femoral condyle as well as the compression of the fat pad, or less commonly, the greater trochanter of the hip, causing a greater trochanteric bursitis (Fairclough et al., 2006). In common language what the National Academy of Sports Medicine says is weak outside glutes cause the muscles along your outer thighs to takeover and compensate for them. 

Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels.com

Weak glutes can result from extended periods of sitting.  The outside glutes, glute medius, are responsible for actions such as spreading your legs and taking side steps such as a side lunge or side shuffle.  To much sitting causes the glute medius to weaken, the groin muscles to tighten, and the outer thigh muscles (tensor fascia latae) to do the job of the glute medius.  What you look like is your knees turn in or towards each other in a squatting movement.  For runners, you can see the knees turn inward with each step.  Multiply that out over the steps in a 5K run spread out over months and years, and you feel what is happening in your knees now.

Standing groin stretch

What can be done you ask, because quitting your job or selling your company isn’t an option.  Begin and end each run by including groin and quadriceps stretches in your routine.  Add in side shuffles along the run concentrating on using your outer glutes to pull your legs not just the outer thighs.  On off days, do fire hydrants or any lateral leg movements, again focusing on the glute medius to be the focus of the movement.  The third ingredient and most important for runners, REST!  I know it’s an addiction, find something else to do for exercise.  Stop the insanity as I say.  The body builds on rest days, not work days.  I give you permission to take three days off per week from running and find another active hobby or don’t run period.

Fire hydrant start
Fire hydrant finish

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!