The Back Place Blog

December 20, 2008

Everyone Else is Doing It

Filed under: New Year's Resolutions — Tags: , , , — Administrator @ 11:54 am

The idea that we might miss out on something everyone else is benefiting from is enough to get us to participate in any number of “opportunities”. There is benefit to having a specific time of the year when making resolutions is normal; we can talk about them with friends and family (see yesterday’s Blog), but the down side comes from bringing out our “me too” tendency.

When we “join in” because it seems like the thing to do, we miss out on the benefit of real commitment. A friend of mine explained to me that one of the best ways to move a human being from simply being comfortable to getting something done is to secure their commitment.
When we make a New Year’s Resolution (NYR), chances are it will take us out of our comfort zone for some period of time, which requires a firm and solid commitment. Coming up with your NYR while out partying with a group of friends won’t feel like an actual commitment. We say it, we don’t really mean it, and 10 to 30 day’s later we can’t even remember what it was.

We might make New Year’s Resolutions so we don’t feel left out, but this contributes the NYR mortality rate.

December 18, 2008

Because We Can . . .

One reason we make New Year’s Resolutions (NYR’s) is because it is the one time of year its considered normal, expected even, to share our personal growth or “greater good” goals with other people.
Not only are we encouraged to make NYR’s, but it’s the only time of year that we are regularly invited to talk about them. When we hit the middle of July, who in your circle of friends or family is asking about your goals for the upcoming fall season?
The idea that we are able to openly talk about these things hits a compelling nerve. Do you have goals you are proud of and have even the slightest chance of achieving? That’s just begging for a conversation with anyone who might be willing to listen.

We make them because we can . . . . . share them.

December 16, 2008

Why do we Make New Year’s Resolutions?

Filed under: New Year's Resolutions — Tags: , , , — Administrator @ 11:40 pm

Why do we make New Year’s Resolutions??

When I wonder why we do what we do, my first instinct tells me to look at history.

I learned the following:
New year’s resolutions. The ancient Babylonians began the idea of New Year’s resolutions as a way to start the year off with a clean slate by returning borrowed items.

Then from:

I learned this:

The tradition of the New Year’s Resolutions goes all the way back to 153 B.C. Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar. With two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future. Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions and many Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies and also exchanged gifts before the beginning of each year.

A clean slate?? Forgiveness of our enemies?? It’s amazing how much hasn’t changed in over 2000 years.

Before we examine the multitude of reasons why we make New Year’s Resolutions in 2009, take a few minutes and look at the sources of historical information about this unique tradition.

December 15, 2008

Blog Series: New Year’s Resolutions

Welcome to the first in a series of weblogs about making and keeping our New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve been tracking a few of the articles and blogs on this topic and two questions are showing up repeatedly: Why do we make them? Why do we fail to keep them?

These are basically the questions I will take on over the next 28 days.
My personal experience with this over the last, say, 30 years or so indicates many of us do not take the whole New Year’s Resolution (NYR) thing very seriously. A glib commitment can become more detrimental than no commitment at all.

Keeping our resolutions is more complicated. The reasons we don’t keep them are numerous and full of nuance; I’ll begin with one that comes from Leif Enger and “Peace Like a River” when Reuban makes the profound statement, “ . . worry died, as usual, at the hands of routine.” Most of our NYR’s also meet their demise at the hands of routine.

There’s a lot to explore and I’ll work to provide useful nuggets that lend themselves to your exploitation. Since this is my weblog I can shamelessly promote my solutions on our website., click on Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions.

September 4, 2008

Potent Points: Real relief, at your fingertips

Filed under: acupressure — Administrator @ 3:26 pm

Acupressure — not to be confused with acupuncture — is the gentle art of using fingertip pressure on specific points of the body to stimulate pain relief and well-being. (Acupuncture uses needles to stimulate the points. Different approach, similar theory.) It’s a surprisingly effective therapy and easy to incorporate into daily life for things like headaches, back pain, neck and shoulder issues, joint problems and even anxiety or depression. No drugs, no machinery, no gimmicks. And you don’t need special training to do it — a simple guidebook like “Acupressure’s Potent Points” by Michael Reed Gach will set you on your way. Subtitled “A Guide to Self-Care for Common Ailments,” this is a straightforward, easy-to-follow and well-organized instruction manual with step-by-step illustrations targeted to specific problems. It’s not a deep theoretical overview of acupressure (which is a fascinating system of Chinese medicine, worth reading about if you have time), but a how-to guide for everyday life. Gach does a great job explaining the basics of acupressure very clearly and concisely, so a novice can grasp the essentials and start practicing right away.

We don’t sell this book on our site, but you can get it here on Amazon. As a massage therapist, I highly recommend it. I use it more than any other book from my massage school days.

August 8, 2008

The Back: “Don’t misunderstand me”

Filed under: back,spine — Tags: , , , , , — Administrator @ 5:46 pm

the back
It affects eight out of 10 people at some point in their life. In the United States, it’s the leading cause of disability for men over 45 years old. It’s the second most common reason for a visit to a primary care physician and the fifth most frequent cause of hospitalization.

With stats like that, you’d think we’d know the basic facts about back pain by now. Yet misconceptions stubbornly persist. Here are a few:

• Physical activity will prevent back pain.
Back pain can affect anyone, regardless of their level of physical activity. Some sports are more likely to trigger back pain, including golf and volleyball.
•Rest is the key to recovery from back pain.
Yes, a short period of bed rest may help reduce acute back pain. But in most cases more than 1 or 2 days of rest can actually lead to increased pain and problems like muscle atrophy, bone loss and risk of blood clots.
•If I have back problems when I’m young, they will get worse as I age.
The incidence of back pain is highest between ages 35 and 55. After age 55, people usually have less pain, especially pain from disc problems.
•The spine is delicate and easily injured.
Actually, the spine and its surrounding muscles tendons and ligaments comprise a well-designed structure that’s extremely strong, flexible and supportive. Generally the back doesn’t need to be overprotected after recovering from an episode of pain (there are exceptions to this, such as an unstable spine fracture).
•There’s a standard way to treat back pain.
If only. Compared to other medical conditions, there are few standardized approaches to diagnosis and treatment of back problems. Physical therapists, surgeons, chiropractors, osteopathic doctors and other spine specialists will often disagree on the cause and treatment of back pain.

What to do? Prevention is obviously paramount. Strengthening exercises, flexibility exercises and aerobic conditioning will help maintain the back and spine. Lifting correctly (using your thigh muscles to do the heavy work), shifting your weight often while standing, wearing the right shoes or supports, sitting properly and sleeping with your head in line with your spine are all vital ways to protect your back.

Don’t let a little (or big) misunderstanding ruin your relationship with your back. It’s the stable platform of your body and deserves to be treated right.

Sources include Mark Vettraaino and Andrew J. Cole as quoted in BackSaver materials.

July 31, 2008

Misty Willow’s magic, at your fingertips

teaIt never fails. The minute I walk into Peg Heinzelman’s store, Misty Willow Tea & Spa Essentials in Paw Paw, Mich., I go into relaxation mode. The tantalizing smells of exotic teas, imported soaps and precious essential oils … comfy chairs, beautiful gifts, shiny teapots and cups, Ikea-meets-Victoria décor and the inviting tea room in back … I just melt. And Peg isn’t just the proprietor of this gorgeous retail haven – she’s also a tea and aromatherapy expert who can set you up with just the right herbal blend for whatever ails you. And now, even if you don’t live anywhere near Paw Paw (yeah, that’s the town’s real name), Peg’s magic is available to you, too. The Back Place has started carrying Peg’s custom products and teas on our website. Some of my favorites include the Goat’s Milk Foot Soak (which my foot-massage clients love), Headache Relief Rollerball in its cool little roll-on applicator, and her soothing Muscle and Back Relief Formula. She knows essential-oil science, loves to research and experiment with new formulas and crafts custom products using all-natural ingredients: organic Nilotica shea butter, Ayurvedic herbs (including neem, tulsi and rose petal powder) and base oils derived from avocado, mango, sweet almond, grapeseed, emu and jojoba. Luscious, gentle yet powerful — her products are a joy to use. More on her teas later … In the meantime, if you’re ever in Southwest Michigan, head on over to Misty Willow Tea & Spa Essentials to experience Peg’s magic. Tell her Cathie sent you.

July 25, 2008

The disease that’s not a disease

This was news to me: Degenerative disc disease (DDD) isn’t a disease at all, but rather a part of the normal aging of the spine. (So why do they call it a disease, anyway? More bad press for aging! Why couldn’t it be termed Normal Disc Development or something more positive-neutral like that?)

DDD is one of the most common causes of back and neck pain, and also one of the most misunderstood. What’s happening, according to experts at and, is that the discs (the pillow-like pads between the bones) start losing their cushioning. The collagen structure of the outer portion of your disc—the annulus fibrosus—weakens. The degenerative process also affects the water content in your discs. With DDD, the water-attracting molecules in your discs decrease, making your discs become more stiff and rigid, which restricts movement.

Supportive gear
DDD in the lumbar area can trigger chronic or acute low back pain that worsens when sitting, lifting, bending or twisting. Pain is lessened when walking, running, lying down or just changing positions. If you’re dealing with DDD pain, many experts recommend the McKenzie Method, developed by Robin McKenzie. And McKenzie himself recommends postural supports, stating: “A poor sitting posture will frequently enhance and always perpetuate the problems in patients suffering from low back pain.” He goes on to recommend the use of a back rest support to help maintain the lumbar lordosis and prevent sitting strain, according to Kim Christensen, D.C., D.A.C.R.B., C.C.S.P. “The use of external supports to reduce excessive biomechanical forces on the lumbar spine is a significant treatment approach, [and] it is one which is frequently overlooked by practitioners,” writes Christensen. “Postural supports for sitting (postural back rests or ischial lifts for chairs and car seats), standing (such as custom foot orthotics and heel lifts) and sleeping (mattresses and pillows) can greatly assist in the management of lumbar spine conditions.”

So, while your physical therapist may recommend specific exercises and stretches for DDD, don’t overlook the relief that a well-designed pillow or a comfortable therapeutic chair cushion can offer.

July 18, 2008

Getting to the core

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Administrator @ 10:05 am

Core muscles are a hot topic now among physical therapists, trainers and other body experts. Why? Think of your core as your body’s mid-point: the trunk. The core muscles include transversus abdominis, lumbar multifidus, the diaphragm and the pelvic floor muscles. Not only do these muscles surround, support and stabilize your spine, but they also communicate vital feedback to your nervous system. Getting strong in your core — your center of gravity — can reduce back pain, improve athletic performance, prevent injury (better balance) and even reduce urinary stress incontinence.

The Chinese knew about core stability ages ago. In massage school we learned a little Tai Chi, including the concept of dantien, the center of balance in the body located about three finger widths below the navel. In Tai Chi, it is said that “the source of the posture lies in the waist” and “the source of the will is in the waist.” The waist is considered the commander of the body.

A great way to improve core strength is to use exercise balls. As you try to keep your balance, you’re activating all those muscles and improving their reactivity. Another great core strengthener is Pilates. Of course, with any exercise program, you’re going to want to maintain a gradual pace, maintain proper form and stop if you feel pain.

July 1, 2008

Hello again, everybody!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Administrator @ 11:44 am

Okay, somehow our previous blog disappeared … so here we are in a new format. Here’s the quick intro: I’m Cathie Schau, a massage therapist and an assistant for The Back Place’s online store. Married, two kids, one dog, one cat and two foster kittens. Enough about me! Why a Back Place blog? Because there is SO MUCH cool stuff to tell you about how to relieve pain and support your body’s wellness! I’ll let you know about stuff I come across that could help you feel better all over. Pain is a pain. At The Back Place, we are all about RELIEF. Please comment, ask questions and join the conversation!

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