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Your Own, Personal Road to Fitness
By Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.
President, The Pressure Positive Company

Choosing a sport or a mode of physical activity for fun and fitness can be as easy as falling off a log. It can also be as risky for your body and spirit if your choice takes you away from your physical or psychic or practical center.

roadtofitnessIt does seem that some of us drift into our sport and fitness activities without much conscious analysis. We just go with the flow. If the flow leads us into a successful path to find health, happiness and fulfillment, Hooray! But if continued athletic success seems elusive, another look at who and what you are just might lead you in a more rewarding direction. Here are some thoughts about making smart, personal choices.

BODY TYPE:
In great measure what you are given controls what you will become. That is not to say that you have no options that will allow you to carry yourself beyond the expectations you, your friends and family might harbor for you. But if you find, for example, that your running or jogging has begun to wear thin or to leave you fatigued or hurting, it could be that your genetic gifts make you more like a Clydesdale draft horse while you have been exercising more like a gazelle or a cheetah. Take a clear, hard look at yourself. You may not want to shift from running 10 K races to pulling a beer wagon, but having a sound view of your physical strengths and gaps will help in setting your track and staying on it.

HISTORY:
Childhood sports experiences can create lifelong interests, attitudes and skills. They can also burn you out, sometimes for life. If you have a powerful and positive early sport or athletic background, use what you retain of it to support your activity whatever it may be. If your background is absent or negative, think of it as just another challenge to transcend. If you are athletically inexperienced, no matter what your age, you can begin walking and/or jogging any time. These activities are as far away as the first step. Use common sense and check with your physician if you have the slightest doubts.

VULNERABILITIES:
A football knee, a touchy sciatic nerve, a Morton’s toe – name your weak spot; we all have at least one. Some of us tend to entire gardens of chronic injuries and anomalies. Know yours, and be able to assess their impact on your athletic viability. Clearly if running invariably stirs up an Achilles’ tendonitis, opting for an activity that spares you high-impact bouncing makes a lot of sense. Serious leg problems need not end a runner’s athletic career, but once they are chronic, they need tending to, and in general, the sooner, the better. Chronic injuries could require a temporary, partial or perhaps a full and permanent shift from running into some other training regimen that maintains your conditioning but affords your body its healing respite.

GRIT:
If there is one characteristic that is common to just about every marathon runner, it is the mental toughness necessary simply to survive the enervating, sometimes numbing hours of training. Doing it, sticking to it and following through are not for the faint- hearted or the tentative. But you can be a runner without ever running a marathon or wanting to run one. Take your training and your competing only as far as you choose and can sustain out of your own, internal enthusiasm and fortitude.

AGE:
Elderliness seems to be less a barrier to athletic achievement than ever. Still age does demand certain caution and concessions. Know when to quit the racing circuit and head out from the competitive arena into calmer, safer pastures. If you are older and are just thinking about starting to exercise, start slowly, take your time, rest early and often and quit at the drop of a hat to come back another day.

PRIORITIES AND GOALS:
Setting your own, internally directed training and competitive objectives, if any, is arguably one of the most important steps you will take in the months ahead. Be deliberate and sober about it, but don’t shy away from your own best visions of what might be, given who and what you are.

In Good Health,
Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.
President, The Pressure Positive Co.

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running

To many, perhaps most, of the under-achieving observers out there, it may seem that competitive athletes are an unfortunate lot.

To outsiders, the serious runner, cyclist or other high intensity athlete must appear continuously sore, aching, injured, misguided and masochistic, a driven, monomaniac, doomed to a short, miserable, lonely life. Maybe, but what cynics forget, cannot grasp or simply ignore is that, for the seriously competitive athlete, routine encounters with the physical realities of weather, the demands of training and racing, managing within personal physical and psychological limits offers, in return for the effort, incomparable resilience and mental balance.
Some might mistake such aplomb as smug contentment (a state easier to take from the inside, than from without, I am told.) But in fact, if you race or train for very long at any of the truly demanding, physical sports, you eventually develop what we might call coping skills as surely as you build up your wind or your quads.

Here are some ideas on managing and coping to think about as you slog along on your own journey.

SERIOUSNESS:
This is serious business. It is, after all, living, and, as far as we know, this is your only shot at it. So you should really try harder than just to make do. On the other hand, though serious, life need not be grave. Make yourself take your training seriously. Stay with it as long as it enhances and strengthens. If you start questioning your own sanity because you have begun to feel you are taking it all too seriously, you probably are. Stop, step back and reorient yourself. This process can take the form of a vacation, a new approach to cross training or just a few days off.

EXPECTATIONS:
Make them great ones. Aim for as high as you can see, but make sure your feet are planted firmly on earth when you look. Some of the most self-destructive behavior grows out of illogical, unrealistic self delusions of grandeur. Beware of pipe dreams.

WIND DOWN OR BURN OUT: For most athletes at this latitude (the Mid Atlantic states,)
the racing season in many sports starts in the spring, glides through the summer and ends or quickens again in the fall before the race schedule finally dries up before winter sets in. For competitors who stay with it for nine months or longer, the danger of burnout becomes ever more real as the season grinds on. Race it if you must and can stay healthy and happy. But if you are beginning to feel the strain either in your working mechanisms or in your head, take the message to heart and ease up to recover your energy and enthusiasm.

HARVEST:
If you have trained well and have stayed out of trouble – meaning injury free – you are certainly entitled to have some pure fun beyond just hammering yourself to numbness.

TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT:
Take some long hikes in the woods, start going on some club rides, break out your ATB and attack a mountain. This can be a beautiful time to reap the fruit of your athletic labors over the past few months.

TRIUMPH VS P.R.: Winning in endurance sports is a great deal more than coming in first. Most athletes come to understand that fact early in their careers. Sometimes just finishing a race can give you the heady experience of high achievement every bit as much as taking a gold medal. Nothing is so uplifting as going back on the road after a long and painful recovery from a seemingly intractable injury. But take it easy, and don’t let yourself be seduced into over-stepping your deconditioned state.

ADVENTURE VS DRUDGERY: Even when grinding through the last phases of training for a marathon or a century ride or another heroic effort, your daily routine can still hold a sense of mystery and adventure for you. Pick a new venue, a new time of the day, a new training partner, new gear. If you should ever suffer from feelings of despair or of being a powerless, innocent victim, turn your thinking around. Practice taking on the mind set of an explorer in which you see the world around you as if for the first time. Think of how you would describe it to a complete stranger.

STICK TO THE POINT: Skeptics have asked, “what’s the point of doing what you do?” To a degree, one supposes, if they have to ask, they may not comprehend the answer. The fact is that just being here is the point – to live, to experience life, to be there when the future happens. Where better a place to be than on the journey, aware and ready for anything?

In Good Health,
By Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.
President,
The Pressure Positive Company®

Ergonomics: Efficiency and Safety in Motion
by
Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.

Overuse injuries, although they often seem quite straight forward, can be, in fact, quite complicated in that they are often caused by a combination of factors that vary widely from person to person. So, whether you are a weekend jogger and spend your work days at a desk or a bench or you are an elite, daily training, competitive athlete, there are some ways you can safely navigate around and through the many risk factors that will threaten your continued mobility, fitness, good health and longevity in the short or the long run.

So, as you make choices about your exercise, how often, how intensely and at what activities, here are some things to think about:

Form and style:
Much athletic coaching and training concentrates on the details of movement. If you are fortunate to have been taught by a skilled and experienced athletic instructor as a young person in, say, junior high or high school, you will have learned all about how to run, how to breathe, how to pace yourself. Now, as you may be contemplating your athletic renaissance, remember all that good advice and put it to use.

musclebalanceIf you are just now starting from scratch, find a trainer or an experienced mentor coach or friend to help you get it right. Very often a local club is a good place to start with club runs or rides among contemporaries. Keep your eyes and ears open for tips on how to move smoothly and efficiently. In running especially, economy of movement follows form and style very closely and will minimize early fatigue that will in turn help to forestall injury from inefficient form.

Frequency in balance:
One of the earliest decisions you may have to make is how often you are going to challenge your body in the activity you select. Be aware that one of the most serious risks in the early stages of most quality exercise programs results from an early excess of enthusiasm. It doesn’t take long for the beginner jogger or cyclist or walker or weightlifter to start feeling the uplifting effects of physical activity. You will know it by the giddy feeling of exhilaration and invincibility that recent converts often demonstrate while in the “honeymoon phase.” It is typically a happy time, but, as rewarding as regular exercise can be, it is not without its hazards. So it pays to be aware that injury can sneak up on you. Your best defense is to listen to signals from your body and to schedule your program so that you allow an appropriate amount of time for recovery after every effort. For a normal workout that may be only a day or for something extraordinary like a marathon, it might require a month before you are back to a normal.

Learning curve:
In time you will accumulate knowledge about your own limits and what works for you and what doesn’t. Always be open to learning more – more about yourself and more about everything that bears on your well being from diet to rest, stretching to cross training. Although exercise is not like neurosurgery in its intellectual demands, it greatly benefits from a basic academic knowledge of anatomy, physiology, nutrition and any sports medicine you can absorb. These days extensive research information is widely available on the Internet.

Taking your time:
Look first at your carefully structured plan to become permanently more fit and strong in the longer term. Consider the stepping stones towards whatever goal you decide to aim for. It may simply be to remain upright and moving for the next twenty or forty years. If you are aiming for something more dramatic and shorter term, your accelerated schedule will demand more intensity as well as more discipline and caution. In terms of your daily activities, try to get in the habit of easing into your training mode of choice with deliberate restraint. One technique that you may soon discover on your own will increase your endurance significantly: Simply warm up slowly for twenty minutes to half an hour before starting any demanding activity.

Muscle balance:
Every experienced athlete knows that the exercised muscle inevitably becomes stronger, and the unexercised muscle does not. Accordingly a sport in which only a limited number of specific muscles are engaged may leave you with neglected, relatively weaker muscles. That difference between opposing muscles can easily result in an imbalance that often leads to acute muscle strains and other injuries that are entirely preventable by a regular, balanced strength training regimen. Maintaining a basic muscle balance is not difficult and does not necessarily involve an extraordinary time commitment. At the outset, however you may have to alter your habitual routine in order, for example, to begin a twice a week weight training program.

With the help of a trained exercise therapist or athletic trainer, you can create a sequence of exercises appropriately tailored to your own, specific needs and goals.

Become an adventurer; mix it up:
Once you are in the habit of training regularly, you can start experimenting with new ways to add variety to your exercise that will enhance your enjoyment. Increase your resistance to overuse related injuries and improve the efficiency of your form. This approach is often referred to as “cross training.” In concept, cross training is simplicity itself: you exercise your primary muscles and allow plenty of time between workouts to allow your muscles to recover and repair; but instead of taking a nap, you go workout at something entirely different. Of course cross trainers can wear down, become plagued by chronic fatigue, reduce their resistance to colds and other infections, but by spreading the stress around your own, more vulnerable trouble spots, you reduce the risk that any one
will break down.

Outlook and simple pleasures:
Always keep in mind that whatever you do to attain and protect your health and fitness,
it should be something that yields you intrinsic rewards. That is pleasure from the sheer pleasure of the experience. Never let that thought go. Everything else is gravy.

Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.
President
The Pressure Positive Company

Copyright © 2008 Bun Gladieux Jr.

Keeping George Sheehan      

By
Bernard L. “Bun ” Gladieux, Jr.

The recent loss of a good friend got me to thinking recently of the many people I have known in my 70 years with whom I share a special kinship. These are family and friends I have lost in the sense that they are no longer among us living but who live very much in me because of their impact on my life and my outlook.

One of these people is George Sheehan who died several years ago after a long and brave battle with prostate cancer.  I hadn’t known George Sheehan as well as some or as long, but the George Sheehan I was fortunate to come to know and admire was a kind, caring, humane man, deeply committed to living life fully. He used to say something to the effect that running might not make you healthy or make you live longer, but that done right, it would make you fit and would allow you to double the amount of living you are able to experience for as much time as you have here.

In his dedication to running, Sheehan discovered a trove of wonderfully valuable secrets that he spent the rest of his life sharing with the world.  He lived in the here and now, very much connected with the earth and within himself.  He glowed with the enthusiasm of a boy earnestly at play.  When he spoke and wrote, it was to share his boy’s enthusiasm for living.

At one time in the late 1970s we would speak fairly frequently by telephone about his articles.  I was, at the time, editing “The Jogger,” the periodical of what was then The National Jogging Association.  Later we changed its name to The American Running and Fitness Association, and Sheehan was a loyal and consistent supporter of the organization which is now called American Running Association.

Dr. Sheehan allowed us to publish some of his material when it wasn’t otherwise spoken for by “Runner’s World” to which, he carefully explained to me, he had a prior obligation made all the more imperative by his having a large number of children to put through college.

We actually met several times over the years and even ran together on occasion. Once, when I when I was much younger than I am today, we ran along side one another in the Boston Marathon for a couple of miles.  At about mile twenty, on the outskirts of Cambridge, and not feeling all that chipper myself, I spotted his anguished figure a few paces in front of me.  He was swaddled in his signature white handkerchief around his head and was wheezing and groaning like a belabored steam engine just like his legend says.

He gasped some comments about the day, the course, and we exchanged some other thoughts of the moment, but it was clear that George Sheehan was in his altered state, suffering with gusto his self-managed catharsis.  I eventually stepped it up to a quieter place in the stream of runners and left George to enjoy his experience alone in the crowd.  Later I saw him hobble around the finish area clearly in exquisite, residual pain, his penance completed, nobly wrapped in a blanket and in the arms of his loving and indulgent family.  I remember thinking, “there’s a happy man.”

Several years later, at a time when we were both recovering from something or another, we ran together at the back of a 5k run in Allentown, PA.  Sheehan, older, slower and, I thought, more relaxed and mellow, spoke again about the day, about being happy just to be out in it and about how you were more likely to meet nicer people at the slow end of a race than at the front.  He had a gift for making wry, droll observations that hit the mark.

 In 1978, when we were together at a meeting in Chicago, I asked George Sheehan to sign my book, “Running and Being, The Total Experience.”  Here is what he wrote on the inside front cover:  “Dear Bun, “As you know, this is not the total experience, there’s always tomorrows run. All the best, George Sheehan.” It was and remains a thought worth repeating, and I suspect that it can be found in any number of other copies of this thoughtful and influential book.

In his beautifully crafted writings over the years, George Sheehan has helped me to grow and to deepen as an athlete.  As he has for thousands of other striving runners, George Sheehan encouraged me to continue my quest for inner discovery, to find the child inside and to nurture him with child’s play.

No one else has ever spoken so eloquently about how the profoundly physical act of running for the pure pleasure of it helps us bring together all the elements of our being as coherent, living, breathing, thinking, feeling, reverent human animals.

 

“Be a good animal, and go out and play.”  Thank you George, I think I’ll do just that. And if it’s an especially good run, I’ll dedicate it to you. 

 

Things I Learned from Bubba

By Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.

 

Towards the end of March Bubba, our most companionable, 12 year old German Short Hair Pointer began showing intermittent weakness in his hind legs.  From time to time he would wobble and stumble slightly then recover and walk normally and occasionally chase a stick or shoo the Canada geese off the pond as he often did.  But as the days passed, these episodes became more frequent and more persistent until Wednesday, April 2 when he collapsed outside the barn and went into a grand mal seizure.   It was immediately apparent that Bubba was in serious trouble, and we called our veterinarian who arrived within minutes.

 

We consulted with the vet and concluded that anticonvulsants would not fix the problem and would only prolong Bubba’s inevitable decline and suffering. I asked the vet to put him down. The sedative quelled the spasms and he fell  into a deep sleep within seconds; a minute or so later the vet’s final shot into a vein in his foreleg allowed Bubba to drift off for good.

 

We were all gathered around his outdoor bed near the overhang of the barn where he often rested in the morning sun, Bunky, Sally and I, comforting him through to the end with our friend and Office Manager Cindy standing by.  Renee arrived on the scene just as the vet was gathering up his kit.  As such endings go, this one was about as, what?  Acceptable?  Painless? Perfect? None of these, of course, but we concluded that when the time comes, we all might well wish for such a passing, without physical suffering and surrounded by those who love and care about us.

 

I put Bubba’s remains into the ground that afternoon across the creek on the gentle rise in the woods where he would often spend time sniffing out the recent history of the place.  From a small quarry of rocks I had been saving, I will build a cairn over him by summer.  I discovered a simple stone that bears an uncanny likeness of his noble profile.  It now marks the location and will probably become the cairn’s capstone.

 

In thinking about the hole that Bubba’s departure leaves in our lives, I remembered again how much we owe to our animals and, perhaps our dogs in particular, for how they instruct us in our humanity, in our capacity to live with feeling and to absorb from our experience of the moment and from the long strings of moments that make up our time here.  So in the past two weeks I put together the following list of the things that I learned from Bubba and also from Duke and Gigi, his predecessors.  More will undoubtedly come to mind, at quiet times, when Bubba will not be up at the barn door to welcome me late in an evening as he would when I would come to walk with him for the last time of the day.  But I will think about him in the quiet, under the stars and miss him and be grateful that we were, for a while, best friends.

Things I learned from Bubba

 

1. Love without conditions.

 

2. Follow your whims.

 

3. If it smells good, lick it.

 

4. Clean your plate.

 

5. Don’t whine unless it really hurts.

 

6. Be ready to go at the first hint.

 

7. When it is time to sleep, clear your mind and drift off like a baby.

 

8. In those you love, forgive everything.

 

9. Give freely.

 

10. Hear all sounds.

 

11. Smell all aromas.

 

12. Play nicely with others.

 

13. Share your pleasures.

 

14. Visit your neighbors.

 

15. Listen for the music of children laughing.

 

16. Let the morning sun warm you.

 

17. Perch where you can see what’s going on.

 

18. Don’t play too rough with delicate creatures.

 

19. Go swimming whenever you feel like it.

 

20. If your best friend says you need a shower, take one.

 

21. Keep track of whomever you’re taking a walk with.

 

22. Come when you are called.

 

23. If told to sit, do not look for a chair.

 

24. Do not curb your enthusiasm.

 

25. You can make a game out of the most simple things.

 

26. Always get up when someone you like comes into your space.

 

27. When your spirit tells you it’s time to rest, take a nap.

 

28. Show gratitude.

 

29. Listen carefully, even if you don’t understand.

Self Care in Trigger Point Therapy
By Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.

Pain, as most of us know by our own life experience, comes in a variety of forms, at any age and at any time of the day or night, often when we least expect it or when it is most inconvenient. Accordingly we would do well to consider devising an accessible approach to self care for that time when, by accident, over-use or chronic condition, our pain level rises to the point at which we become dysfunctional or distracted or both.

If the idea of taking positive charge of your own well being in this way leaves you anxious or confused or weak in the knees, seek out the help of a knowledgeable friend or health professional. Often a coach or personal trainer or massage therapist can offer insights and pointers that will lead you in the right direction.

Since most garden variety pain has more to do with soft tissue or muscles, here is where you will likely find the best answers to your most basic questions. One approach to the matter of pain is to think of the three ways of dealing with most of it that you will encounter in your everyday life. These are: Prevention, First Aid and Long Term Management.

“Since most garden variety pain has more to do with soft tissue or muscles, here is where you will likely find the best answers to your most basic questions. One approach to the matter of pain is to think of the three ways of dealing with most of it that you will encounter in your everyday life. These are: Prevention, First Aid and Long Term Management.”

Prevention:
There is no way to guarantee that you will be able to live pain free, no matter how protective or cautious you are. However, a regular program of moderate, well balanced exercise with generous amounts of aerobic, cardio vascular activity, some strength training and stretching with some variation in routine will go a long way to keeping your body tuned up, strong and limber enough to do all of the things you have always enjoyed and which give color, texture and energy to your life without your having to be concerned about hurting yourself.

Of course if your interests turn toward mountain climbing, sky diving, or skiing steep and deep powder, and the like, you will certainly want to step up your conditioning to levels appropriate for your sensible and realistic aspirations.

First Aid:
Pain is often the signal that something is amiss when injury strikes. Listen to it even as all of your best plans are falling apart. Assess the damage. Is it a broken bone, a joint sprain, a muscle strain, a traumatic injury or an over-use syndrome on the rise? Your answers may or may not point you in the right direction, but they will add to your store of experience that should help protect you in the future. For most athletes and sport oriented therapists and trainers, icing, rest, compression and elevation are the traditional first treatments for soft tissue injury. Broken bones and more severe muscle and joint damage take longer and more complicated repair and recuperative protocols.

Long Term Pain Management:
Eventually prevention and first aid lead to and then blend in with long term management of symptoms. All of these care phases then become a seamless whole. In the quest for pain free and optimally functional long term fitness, serious seekers of effective self care will search for knowledgeable, pain management clinicians, but, as David Simons, M.D. has said,* “…finding a truly skilled practitioner can be frustratingly difficult.” But, he adds, “There is no substitute for learning how to control your own musculoskeletal pain. Treating myofascial trigger points yourself addresses the source of that kind of common pain and is not just a way or temporarily relieving it.”

This self care principle is a direct outgrowth of the trigger point identification and treatment protocol that was developed both before and after World War II by Hans Kraus, M.D. and Janet Travell, M.D., among others including aerospace researcher and physician David G. Simons, M.D. By the late 1970s, nationally popular exercise therapist and promoter, Bonnie Prudden and friend and associate of Drs. Kraus and Travell, had developed her own, non invasive trigger point protocol that was a direct extension of the early work of Kraus and Travell.

Prudden called her technique Myotherapy, wrote a book on it and founded her own Academy for Physical Fitness and Myotherapy in a former elementary school in Lenox Masachusetts to train professional myotherapists. The elements of the Prudden Myotherapy treatment include the following key elements:

The success of this therapeutic protocol is measured by the subjective reduction in pain, increased flexibility and range of motion as well as in increased strength, endurance and over all physical function. Success is also measured by the degree to which patients become active participants in their ongoing self care.

Over the past thirty years the myotherapeutic model has been widely practiced by physicians and therapists representing the span of professional disciplines that define mainstream, physical medicine. And it is now well accepted as an effective and conservative treatment option.

Precipitating factors. By thorough patient intake interviews, the myotherapist
seeks to discover the conditions and circumstances that contribute to the patient’s symptoms.

Deep, manual, soft tissue ischemic compression and myofascial release of trigger points.

Individualized active and passive stretching exercises often facilitated with topical application of coolant spray.

Detailed patient instruction in home self care including deep muscle compression, stretching and strengthening exercises and the management and avoidance of precipitating factors.

In Good Heath,
Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.
President,
The Pressure Positive Company®

When Your Back Goes Out

You’re  smart.  You fulfill your obligations; you mind your own business and generally do the right thing in whatever enterprise engages you at the moment. You take care of yourself, exercise in moderation, eat right, and enjoy good health and a relatively high fitness level and all of the benefits that usually flow from your admirable lifestyle.  Unfortunately freedom from back pain is not necessarily one of those benefits.

You might be one of the lucky ones and escape this particular torment through your lifetime.  If you do, you will be in an elite minority.  Congratulations, and lucky you.

For most of the rest of us, however, we would do well to have some kind of a game plan to call into play when it feels like we have been hit in the back with a jackhammer.  Knowing what to do when that happens or feels like it is about to happen depends largely on the nature and level of your pain, its location and its root cause.

If you are relatively young, take heart; eventually you should become an expert on your symptoms and will learn to identify and avoid the factors that bring on a back pain episode and what works best to prevent and ease your own, special travail.  In the meantime, here are some suggestions to try out the next time the hammer strikes.

Rest:  For many habitual athletes, the word is anathema, but when your back is in unremitting spasm, you have little choice.  At the same time you need not baby yourself too much or too long and should become as active and as soon as your pain level will allow.  The days of long term bed rest for garden variety back pain are pretty much over since it was found that extended inactivity actually lengthens the recovery period.  

Ice:  As for other muscle injuries, cold therapy can work wonders.  You can use packaged chemical coolants, gels that stay mushy even when frozen or old fashioned ice packs. Avoid frostbite with a towel between your skin and the pack, but make sure you cool the tissues deep enough to reach the core of the spasm.  In the early, acute stages, you can effectively ice up to three or more times a day.  Remember to keep the rest of your body comfortably warm while you are icing, especially in colder weather..

Drugs: You may get your physician to prescribe a muscle relaxant or a heavy duty pain-killer.  Such pills can get you through the worst of it.  You might also try Ibuprofen, a generic, over-the-counter anti inflammatory and pain medication. Although with Ibuprofen, you may need to take it for several days or even a couple of weeks to sustain a therapeutic blood level to achieve the anti inflammatory effect, beware of the risks that accompany long term dependency. When in doubt, check with your physician.

●Massage: If you are fortunate enough to have access to a skilled, strong massage or other hands-on therapist who can and will apply deep muscle compression, go for it as soon and as often as you can.  There are a variety of theories underlying the various techniques used to release trigger points, relax taut muscles, improve range of motion and mitigate muscle pain; you may find that with experience you will prefer one method over another.  In the end it is the therapist who leaves you feeling more flexible, more relaxed, and in less pain who will likely give you the most satisfaction.

Professional Care: If your pain leaves you unable to move, you may have no choice but to seek the care of a physician.  Your family doctor may be your first stop unless you have access to a physician who specializes in physical medicine, pain management, sports injury rehabilitation, chiropractic, orthopedic, physical or occupational therapy.

“There are excellent practitioners in all of these specialties and more. Selecting the professional who offers the best match for you requires that you do your homework, most effectively before you are in a painful crisis.”

● Exercise: Once you are out of the woods, and can move around without going into spasm, you can start some benign strengthening and stretching exercises.  Abdominal curls done flat on your back with knees bent can be started early on and will produce the best payoff.  You can take exercise and stretching classes at you local gym or refer to self care information at the http://www.pressurepositive.com/ website described below.

Self Care: As important as outside sources of help can be to relieve your aching back, do explore all the possibilities available to you to help yourself. In addition to appropriate medical care, rest, ice, stretching, exercise, and other lifestyle choices, there are tools that can help you manage your back pain issues by allowing you to apply deep, static, soft tissue compression that will quell muscle spasms and chronic pain, easing tension in the involved muscles sufficiently enough to allow deliberate, targeted stretching.  Over time such a regular regimen, as a component in a balanced self care program, will not only help you heal but will be effective in preventing future recurrences.  In the interests of full disclosure, my own enterprise, The Pressure Positive Company specializes in the design and manufacture of such self care products that are displayed along with a wealth of detailed information on self care at our corporate website at: http://www.pressurepositive.com/ .

 ●Learn:  In the end the more you know about yourself, what works and what doesn’t, how to recognize the warning signs when something is about to go wrong and what you need to do to stay upright and well over time is your best, most dependable defense.