Knee pain from osteoarthritis (OA) is a fairly common complaint. Cartilage damage can occur from a variety of factors including injuries, aging, and certain illnesses. Keeping the muscles around the knee strong and managing weight are two of the typical strategies to reduce pain.
A recent analysis of data from two large studies of patients with arthritis revealed another potential tool to help keep pain in check. Patients who ate more fiber had fewer symptoms and less likelihood of knee pain becoming worse over time. This result is a correlation and not a definite cause and effect. However, I think it is another good reminder to eat well and get enough fiber in our diets.
From a Berkeley Wellness Newsletter Article, here are the numbers and this link is their List of Best Foods for Fiber.
People who consumed the most fiber—21 grams a day on average in the Osteoarthritis Initiative, and 26 grams in the Framingham study— had a 30 and 61 percent lower risk of OA symptoms, respectively, compared with people who ate the least. Higher fiber intake also reduced the likelihood of knee pain worsening among participants who had that symptom at the start of the studies.
Several recent clients have been surprised by how tender the muscles at the base of their skull felt when we worked there. I also noticed this part of my anatomy on the last few miles of a recent ride on my road bike. I started feeling my neck getting stiff.
The muscles in question are the suboccipitals. There are four of them and they connect your skull to the spine and are also connected to your eyes. They help tip your head toward your shoulder, among other actions. When the suboccipitals are tight, you could experience headaches, neck tightness, or even back pain.
Common posture habits can contribute to issues with the suboccipitals. Typical culprits are forward head posture or habitually tipping your chin up (to look through bifocals or at a computer monitor).
Note how this rider’s head is tipped up to see the road.
To reduce tightness in the suboccipitals, some options to try include these easy things.
- Pay attention to your posture (Rolf Line) – if your head is forward, bring it back into alignment.
- Confirm that your computer monitor is at an ergonomic height. Usually, this means the top of the screen is at or below eye level.
- Notice if you tend to tip your chin up and bring it back to level.
- Make sure your glasses are properly adjusted.
- Avoid holding your phone between your head and shoulder.
For more relief, you can also use 2 tennis balls in a sock to massage the base of your skull. For instructions and photos, refer to this post by Strength on Demand.
Do you meditate, practice yoga or tai chi, or do another mind-body practice? If so, you have probably noticed that these types of activities help reduce stress. Recent research from Coventry University has identified one way that such mindfulness practices help your body.
This study is from the Brain, Belief and Behaviour Lab in Coventry University’s Centre for Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement. Lead investigator Ivana Buric says,
These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed. Put simply, [Mind-Body Interventions] cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.
People who practice a mindful activity experience changes in their bodies. These changes benefit health by decreasing the production of proteins that cause inflammation. Inflammation is useful in the short term to boost the immune system and fight infections. However, chronic inflammation is linked to a higher risk of some diseases and mental health conditions.
Are you ready to experience the physical and mental benefits of a mind-body practice for yourself? Community education, faith communities and online resources are all ways to access classes and videos to guide your efforts. You may want to try several options to find the activity that is right for you.
Does your brain produce a lot of negative internal chatter? If so, it may be because the part of our brain that is the center for emotions, the amygdala, uses about two-thirds of its neurons to detect negative experiences or threats. This can result in our focusing more on the negative, even if we are experiencing as many – or more – positive things. This tendency is part of the human condition. While it still has usefulness in modern life, for many of us this system is over-active.
Our inner critic is looking for problems. However, we don’t need to listen to it. Being nicer to ourselves is a good strategy to improve our well-being and reduce stress. We can learn how to do this even if it is not our natural tendency.
Dr. Kristin Neff, a researcher who specializes in self-compassion, says it has three parts:
- Self-kindness: “Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals.”
- Recognizing our experiences are part of the shared human experience
- Being mindful or non-judgemental
Learn more tips, watch videos and find additional resources at Dr. Neff’s Self Compassion website.
Negativity also has an impact on the people around us. For tips on how to counter this in the workplace, see this blog post from Psychology Today: Are We Hardwired to be Positive or Negative?
A strong set of core muscles in your torso helps keep your back happy and allows you to do the movements and chores of daily living. I’ve written before about the importance of the transversus abdominus muscle as a key to your core support.
Many people can benefit from core work – such as office workers, new moms, and athletes. For example, I discovered that I could do certain yoga poses better after I took up Pilates. I thought I wasn’t flexible enough but it turns out I wasn’t strong enough.
This set of exercises recommended by coach Timothy Bell will help build your foundation for balanced core support and strength.
5 Fundamental Core and Abdominal Exercises for Beginners
Kale and other leafy greens have been popular for a while because they are nutritional powerhouses. They are tasty, high in fiber and contain many beneficial vitamins and minerals (for details, see WebMD Top 10 Leafy Green Vegetables). They are also low in calories. One way I get my daily greens is in a green smoothie, as I wrote about previously.
A recent study from the University of Illinois provides even more incentive to keep leafy greens – along with other green vegetables – on your menu routinely.
Farm share photo by my share partner.
A study of older adults links consumption of a pigment found in leafy greens to the preservation of “crystallized intelligence,” the ability to use the skills and knowledge one has acquired over a lifetime.
You might think of bad air days as a summertime issue when smog levels or smoke from wildfires can be greater. Here in Minnesota; however, fine particles can also be a concern during the winter heating season. Breathing air with high levels of fine particles can be troubling for people with asthma or heart conditions, among others.
To find out about the day’s air quality or to learn more about indoor and outdoor air pollution, visit the Be Air Aware Minnesota website. Along with current conditions, there are monthly feature articles, health data and ways to take action to help keep Minnesota’s air clean.