Four Unexpected Back Pain Causes (And What To Do About Them)

If you read my previous article on back pain then you'll know that this is one of the most common health issues that a huge percentage of the population struggle with. It is also one of the toughest to tackle. Back pain causes can range from a muscle strain to degenerative disease. In this article, we are looking at the common and not so common ones and what you can do right now to relieve your pain.

Types Of Back Pain

Let's first talk about the types of back pain which can be split up into acute and chronic.

Acute back pain comes suddenly and lasts a limited amount of time. Usually, doctors say that back pain lasting less than six weeks is acute. Notice that these terms have nothing to do with how strong your pain is. Acute pain could be dull and relatively weak much like chronic pain could be unbearably strong.

If your back pain lasts for more than six weeks (some may argue three months), then it's termed chronic and is usually associated with a long-term disease. With chronic pain, you don't always have as many back pain relief options as the cause can't always be treated. For instance, osteoporosis can cause back pain and unfortunately is not a treatable disease. Meaning that you can manage the chronic pain but you can't always remove the source.

Prevention Is Always Better Than Cure

As I discussed in the previous article, the best way that I know to banish back pain is not getting it in the first place! But statistics show that around 80% of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives.

A small percentage of these cases will be chronic and you'll need proper medical advice to resolve it, but most cases are acute back pain and simply changing up a few of your habits is usually enough to eliminate it.

Heavy Lifting And Back Pain

One of the most common culprits is lifting heavy objects  - hardly a surprising back pain cause.

A lot of people feel that weight training is purely for vanity. Yes your body will look better but more importantly it will function better. Weight training is about training to be better at life! Just don't get too carried away and try to lift too much too soon, it kind of defeats the object here!

Always warm up before a strength workout. At least 5-10 minutes of active stretching and mobility exercises before every session are a must.

Learn to lift properly, whether that's a box of old things you want to move to the spare room or a deadlift you are performing in the gym, do it with good form and you will strengthen your back and not harm it.

Sitting Down

Let's face it modern lifestyle doesn't set us up for great posture. We sit in a car or on public transport for up to an hour to get to work when most of us then spend 8 hours (or more) sat down hunched over a desk, we then travel home in the same manner and spend the evening slouched on the sofa. Our bodies are more designed to sit rather than stand these days and that's why when we ask it to perform simple tasks it's just not up to the job!

Start tweaking your habits little by little... Can you move a bit more each day? Can you get a stand up desk? Can you try being mindful of the way you stand? Have a look at your posture, remember your mum telling you to stand up straight when you were younger? Well, you need to follow her advice more than ever now! Lift your chest, roll your shoulders back and tighten your core and over time you really see a difference.

Medication

This is the obvious answer to relieving pain isn’t it?

Reach for the pills potions gel sprays and anti-inflammatory creams... Ok I have to admit I have used some of the gels and sprays over the years to relieve my post exercise aches and pains but have you ever read the side effects of pain killing and anti-inflammatory medication?

Be very careful with medication. Although commonly used for a quick fix pain relief, the long term effects of anti-inflammatory drugs such as Nurofen or Voltarol can be extremely damaging. They have been seen to cause stomach ulcers and will only ever mask the underlying problem.

By masking the pain we place further stress upon the weakened areas and are unaware of the damage we are causing. As the pain increases so does the level of drugs to relieve the pain! This is madness!

Smoking

Did you know that smokers are three times more likely to experience back pain compared to non-smokers?

We all know the risks of cancer and heart disease but did you realise that your dirty little habit may also be the cause of your back pain as well?

Smoking causes decreased nutrition to the tissues of the back largely because of the carbon monoxide that cigarette smoke contains. Carbon monoxide sticks to the haemoglobin (the oxygen carrying part of the blood), this decreases the amount of oxygen to the muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons of the back. Oxygen is an essential nutrient in the healing process of the tissues of the back and must be present in order to achieve a full recovery.

Not only that but, nicotine is known to cause thickening of the walls of the blood vessels. This thickening contributes to restricted blood flow through the large and small blood vessels of the lower back and increases the amount of time for healing and recovery if you have a back injury.

So what should be done about it? Well, in short, GIVE UP SMOKING! Even veteran smokers have shown a marked decrease in back pain and further disc damage after quitting. Cutting down on smoking can also decrease the chance of developing back problems and can restore good blow flow.

These are just a few of the possible causes of back pain. Look out for my new ebook - Banish Your Back Pain out later this year for numerous  ways to prevent and manage back pain

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Cheers,

David


How To Cure Your Back Pain

Back pain is an incredibly common occurrence, approximately 80% of the population will experience it at some point in their lives and so its high time we talked about it here. Stick to the end of the article for an exciting new project I have planned that will help you banish your back pain. Other than that, let's jump straight in!

Where Does Your Back Pain Come From?

Back pain is very general. There are so many structures in and around your back and the pain could even come from your internal organs. Your pain could be caused by issues with your:

  • Spinal cord
  • Vertebral column
  • The ligaments that connect the vertebrae
  • The muscles of your back and their tendons
  • Nerves
  • Kidneys
  • Immune system (some autoimmune diseases)

For any pain that lasts longer than a few weeks and especially if you have other symptoms, please call your doctor. Some of the tell-tale signs of a more serious issue would be fever, nausea, vomiting, heart palpitations, pain urinating. Get it checked - Better safe than sorry!

If It Was A Muscle Strain (Or A Ligament Strain)

This is the easiest and most common back pain to recognise and treat. Even as a professional coach, I've had a few occasions where I have overworked my back. If you have also caused an injury whilst training, Some tips to prevent it are to make sure you always warm up, taking time to stretch after your workout, and leave your ego at the door and sure you take your time to progress in the gym (as opposed to jumping straight to heavy weights).

If you strained a muscle or a ligament, your first and most important step is rest. As soon as you feel the pain stop. Lie down on the floor or another flat surface. Breathe deeply and allow the muscle spasm to calm. It often eases away in a couple of minutes but give yourself some rest over the next couple of days.

Apply ice to the area for 20 minutes every day. Not only will it reduce the pain, but it also prevents swelling and bruising. Heat, on the other hand, is not a great idea for the first few days. However as you recover, a heat pad is often a great pain reliever as it very effectively relaxes your muscles. As always seek advice from a medical professional if the pain persists.

Posture And Back Pain

Confident woman walking
Great body posture prevents back pain!

I am a broken record on this one. Poor posture will always lead to back pain (plus a bunch of other problems). I get it, we are all busy and there isn't always time to think about proper posture but spending your day behind the desk and your night on the couch is a recipe for screwing up your back!

Fixing your posture starts with deciding to do so. Remind yourself throughout the day to roll your shoulders back and straighten your spine. A neat little trick I like is to set a 'trigger'. For instance, every time you check the time also check your posture. Being mindful of the way you stand will make the world of a difference for your back pain. And it will also prevent further damage.

Hydration Is Key

You know you have to drink water. You know that dehydration stresses out every single cell in your body. But what does it have to do with back pain? A lot, actually.

First, you have your kidneys. They filter out waste products and throw them out diluted in water. If you don't hydrate, your kidneys can't work properly. This can lead to inflammation, kidney stones, or even more serious issues. Since kidney inflammation is one of the possible causes of back pain, by drinking more water you can prevent that.

The other reason are your spinal disks. They connect the vertebrae in the spine. On the inside of a spine disk is a gel-like substance. When you are dehydrated, the disk loses some water and it's no longer holding the vertebrae properly. Drink enough water and you prevent that. The great part is that you can also help back pain by simply rehydrating. Of course, just in the first stages, not after years of dehydration, so drink up as soon as you feel it.

A line that I use constantly in my role at Red Bull Racing is to remind people that water is like their engine oil, without it things just seize up!

Eat To Help Your Back

Great nutrition will improve numerous things like your digestion, your mood, your immune system and it could also cure the back pain.

When it comes to bone health, focus on getting enough calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K. Calcium, contrary to popular belief, is not just found in milk. Leafy greens, broccoli, butternut squash, nuts, all of these are great plant sources of the mineral. So there are no excuses, even if you are lactose intolerant or vegan.

For your cartilage (a.k.a. what makes up the spinal disks), pomegranates, tomatoes, and red bell peppers are great sources of antioxidants. They limit inflammation, which can harm your tissue. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna contain omega-3 fatty acids. They are also anti-inflammatory, not to mention how beneficial good fats are to vitamin absorption and your overall health.

Finally, for healthy muscles, focus on the protein. Lean meats, eggs, fish, protein powder even (but only if it's hemp, check out the article to see why). Getting enough protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle.

Diet changes alone can cure back pain but it will take a while. They are a long-term strategy for both prevention and treatment.

The Cause And The Cure!

If there is no underlying medical issue and no huge trauma to explain your pain the the truth of the matter is the cause is probably down to you. The way that you sit, the way that you move (or don't), the food and fluids that you consume, the stress that you place upon your body and the way that you choose to look after it, it's all your fault! But you probably don't want to hear that!

Your body is an incredibly resilient machine, it can take most things you throw at it - but not everything. Pain is a reminder than something is wrong and maybe you need that reminder...

Here's the good news. If you've caused your back pain then you also have the power to cure it. Move more, spend less time on your backside, eat better, cut out the smoking and drinking, sleep more and learn how to de-stress and I GUARANTEE your back will thank you for it.

Banish Your Back Pain

Finally, I am excited to announce my new project - 'Banish Your Back Pain', a comprehensive guide to curing back pain once and for all. It is about to launch in December so keep an eye on the website and my social media!

Cheers,

David

 


The Untold Truth of The Ketogenic Diet

In the last few weeks, a lot of people have asked me about the ketogenic diet. I mentioned it briefly in a previous article and I thought I would go into more detail here.

The ketogenic diet has been getting increasingly popular over the last few years. It's not a new concept per se but to the general public, keto seems novel. So much so, in fact, that it's quickly turning into a fad diet. And there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding it so let's try to clear a few up!

What Does A Ketogenic Diet Look Like?

Diet usually implies cutting out some foods and/or swapping them with others. With the keto diet, however, it is just about the macronutrients.

These can be broken down into:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Proteins

Usually, dieticians and nutritionists will have you eat 40-50% carbs, 30-40% protein, and 20% fat. Your calorie needs are something very individual but the carb: protein: fat ratio for these calories remains the same. If your calorie budget is 2000, you would get 800 - 1000 of them from carbs.

On the ketogenic diet, the amount of fats you consume goes up to 60 or even 70%. This is to the expense of the calories in carbs. So in practice, the ketogenic diet would have you cut out foods like pasta and bread and eat more nuts, avocados, and fatty fish. It is definitely not just about eating more fat.

How Does It Help You Lose Weight?

There is a quick science lesson before you can understand it.

The reason why such a large portion of your daily calories should normally come from carbs is because your body just loves glucose. Carbohydrates contain glucose in different forms. Some are easier to digest and the glucose is more readily available, others not so much. This is where we distinguish simple (e.g. Fruit juice) from complex carbs (e.g. Vegetables).

Glucose gives your cells energy. They could also use fats to produce energy but the process takes a lot longer and is more complicated. Hence why your body prefers glucose.

When you consume less carbs, your body has to search for them, first off it uses up the glucose in your bloodstream. Then you move on to the glycogen (which is just glucose stored in our muscle tissue). These are quickly depleted, though, typically in the first 20 minutes of exercise or after just a couple of hours without carbs.

Then your body moves on to a substance called oxaloacetate.

The State Of Ketosis (And Why It's Good For Slimming Down)

Oxaloacetate is found in your liver. When your glucose and glycogen stores get depleted, your body's plan A is to produce more glucose. Oxaloacetate can be turned into glucose and that is exactly what your liver cells begin to do.

At the same time, your adipose cells start sending over fats and the oxaloacetate turns the fats into ketone bodies. The ketone bodies move with your blood and carry energy just like glucose does.

Once this happens you're in the state of ketosis which basically encourages your body to use up fat stores instead of craving the carbs it is not getting. Therefore your body will burn more fat than you would on the same calories but with a different macronutrient ratio.

The Fine Print On Ketosis

Here is a little something people don't tell you about the ketogenic diet. Ketone bodies are not your primary energy source for a reason. They are acidic, meaning that they also turn your blood acidic. Changes to the pH inside your body can be detrimental to a lot of the processes that are essential to survival. On a biochemical level, that might mean blocking enzymes or getting unwanted side products from reactions.

Overall, the state of your body being more acid than normal is known as (surprise-surprise) acidosis. Some common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Shallow breathing (your lungs trying to normalise the pH)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Strong headache

In diabetics, acidosis can be life-threatening. It happens to them because they can't use the glucose and their bodies produce ketones instead. When you are on the ketogenic diet, you are essentially forcing your system into the same state.

That is not to say that you would suffer all of these negative consequences. It is just a warning that the ketogenic diet can't be used on the long term, as beneficial as it may be for short term fat shredding. As I say with all of my articles, I'm just here to inform and not prescribe. Nothing is ever one size fits all, the Keto diet may work amazingly well for one reader and have negative effects for another. Just be aware of the potential dangers before you jump on the Keto bandwaggon.

More Safety Issues With The Ketogenic Diet

The acidosis is not the only possible negative effect of eating keto.

Glucose is essential to building new protein. When you are trying to gain muscle mass, building new protein is the name of the game. With less glucose in your system, though, there will be very little gains. That is why this isn't a long-term diet plan and you should switch between keto and a higher carb diet if you want to get slimmer AND stronger at the same time.

The kind of fats you choose also matters. In my experience, when clients first start the ketogenic diet, their performance drops. That is the acidosis plus the drop in glucose but it's also the fats they consume. Often it is saturated fat, which is unhealthy both in the short and long run. You should be careful to choose the right fats. Focus on high-quality, polyunsaturated, non-processed fats for best results. Try to get this from nuts, avocados and oily fish.

Practical Tips (And My Favourite Ketogenic Diet Recipe)

In practice, the ketogenic diet is best applied for a couple of weeks at a time. Plan ahead and use a calorie/nutrient tracking application to make sure you are lowering the carbs along with the increased fats. Meal prepping is a tedious but probably essential, especially for beginners. That way, you don't fall into the trap of consuming unhealthy fats.

An easy, keto-friendly recipe I swear by is my keto green smoothie. It is packed full of healthy fats and the greens add some extra antioxidant goodness. The basic ingredient list is:

  • A cup of baby spinach (organic)
  • Half a cup of full-fat coconut milk
  • 5-6 almonds
  • A couple of brazil nuts
  • One tablespoon chia seeds
  • Half a cup of water (or kombucha for some probiotics)

I like to add protein powder, too, especially in the morning. My favourite is hemp protein powder and I even did an article about it if you want to learn more. You could also throw on some berries for extra antioxidants.

As a bottom line, the ketogenic diet could be a great way for you to lose some weight. It is much more than a fad diet and, if done correctly, is safe and healthy. Be smart and maintain some common sense and you should be fine!

If you have any questions you would like me to answer, or any article ideas, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Cheers,

David


Hang In There: The Surprising Benefits Of Hanging

Do you want to add something new to your training programme that can improve your posture, your concentration, your stress levels and even make you look a few years younger?!

Hanging exercises are some of the simplest, most beneficial, and most ridiculously underrated moves you can do at the gym. Hanging benefits virtually all of your body and incorporating it into your routine is easy and fun.

Types Of Hanging Exercises

When it comes to hanging you have two main types of exercises - hand hanging and inversion.

With hand hanging, you grip a bar and, well, you just hang in there. This type of movement is a great tool for decompressing your spine, improving your back strength, and reducing the risk of injury.

Inversion techniques, whether you do them on an inversion table, inversion chair, or with anti-gravity boots, aim to reverse the effects of gravity. It puts your body in a very unusual position and its a way of placing controlled stress on your system. The increased blood flow to the brain, the improved lymphatic drainage, and the radical improvement in your posture are just some of the benefits of hanging upside down.

How To Do Hand Hanging Right

 

To perform hand hanging exercises all you need is a bar. Virtually all gyms have them and you can install one in your house for very low cost as well.  You can do it as a stand-alone exercise during work or study breaks or, as I have recently started to experiment with - as a great way to start your day!

A simple hand hanging technique is to spread your arms a little more than shoulder-width apart. Grip with your thumb around the bar at first. It is a stronger grip better suited for beginners (the same goes for when you are doing pull-ups). If you are comfortable with that, try reversing the grip. Although it will be more challenging, this grip engages your wrist muscles much better. No matter what grip you choose, remember to lock your elbows for added stability.

Start with the goal of hanging for 30 seconds. An experienced athlete should aim for 90 seconds to 2 minutes of hanging.

If this seems a bit tedious and you want more of a challenge, try active hanging. The idea is to maintain the same posture, except with your shoulders pulled down. This is especially good for strengthening the muscles around your shoulder joint. If you have ever suffered from shoulder pain, dislocations or similar injuries, active hanging could drastically reduce these issues. I usually have my clients do both types of hanging but to be honest I prefer active hanging as it gives you the extra shoulder stability.

The Benefits Of Hanging From A Bar

There are four main benefits to incorporating hand hanging:

  • Decompression of your spine
  • Improved wrist and forearm strength
  • Shoulder stabilisation
  • Better back mobility

Most people, unfortunately, spend their days sitting on a desk and lounging on the sofa. As you might suspect, this is really bad for your overall posture, the function of your internal organs and virtually all aspects of your physical well being. Being sedentary significantly restricts shoulder and back mobility, as you spend hours working with your arms by your sides.

Sitting for prolonged periods of time is also very harmful to your spine. The vertebrae in your spine  are connected by softer, 'squishier' lumbar discs. As you go about your day and especially if you sit a lot, the pressure on this discs increases. Over time that could cause injury and severe pain. When you hang from the bar, the compression is reversed. In fact, chiropractors do decompression techniques on their patients all the time and they are one of the best ways to reduce back pain. Hanging is a simple decompression exercise that can prevent plenty of problems in the future.

The Crazy Benefits Of Hanging From Your Ankles

 

Did you know that being hanged upside down was one of the cruellest and most agonizing execution techniques during the Middle Ages? A couple of centuries later and we are discovering that inversion, when performed correctly and with caution, can actually have some very impressive (and surprising benefits). Defying gravity by hanging upside down can:

  • Improve blood flow to the brain
  • Improve your posture
  • Improve flexibility and overall mobility
  • Reduce stress and help with concentration, productivity, memory, critical thinking
  • Better your overall circulation (essentially, by resetting it)
  • And even improve the appearance of wrinkles and blemishes on your skin!

The list goes on and on. The benefits of hanging upside down can significantly improve your well-being, quality of life, and athletic performance. There are some downsides as well, though. For instance, the 'getting back on your feet' part could make you very dizzy and even nauseous. Inversion is dangerous to perform alone, especially by beginners. Therefore, only perform this exercise under the supervision of an experienced trainer.

 

Benefits Of Hanging: Some Concluding Words

 

I really hope that you've  learned something new in this article. This is something that I have been introduced to in the last few months and now that I have seen and experienced the benefits first hand I am hooked!

Get yourself a pull up bar from home or try out an anti gravity yoga class and let me know how you get on...

If you have any tips for hanging exercises or favourite techniques you would like to share, please do so in the comments below. I would also love to answer any questions you might have for me!

Cheers,

David

Buy Ultrasport 2 Way Pull-Up Bar Here

 

** This content uses referral links.  Read my disclosure policy for more info** 


Clicking Joints: What Is The Real Reason Your Bones Moan And Groan?

 

I’m sure you've experienced clicking joints at some point in your life... Whether it's a daily occurrence as you get out of bed and take a walk to the bathroom, or from your knuckles - that you enjoy cracking maybe a little too much!

Why do clicking joints happen? And more importantly, is it an indication of something more serious? It's another question that I get asked a lot and I thought I'd take the time to give you the low down on clicking joints, what actually causes this, and when it could be dangerous. Read on...

What Makes A Joint

Fit woman stretching
Stretching is great for your joints!

 

The bones are arranged in a way that means under normal circumstances they don't touch. The ends of each bone are covered in cartilage which is a resilient and smooth elastic tissue with rubber-like padding that covers and protects the end of bones at the joints. A joint is basically two bones coming together, bound by some tendons, ligaments, and muscles. More importantly, though, each joint has a capsule and contained inside this capsule is a tiny amount of synovial fluid that reduces friction between the joints.

How Synovial Fluid Causes Your Knuckles To Crack

 

When you pull the joint capsule ends either with normal movement or forceful actions like knuckle cracking, you essentially make the joint capsule bigger.

The amount of fluid within the joint does not change but some of the gases dissolved inside are released. "Air" bubbles form very quickly to fill the empty space. The process of these bubbles forming is called cavitation and because the release of gas happens so fast, a sound is produced and that sound is the infamous crack.

Why Cracking Your Knuckles (Or Any Other Joint) Could Be Bad For You

Clicking joints are not usually a cause for concern. They click because of the gas and this is a completely natural process. If you crack your joints often, though, the change of pressure will inevitably affect the ligaments. In fact, micro-injuries can happen with every single click. That is why I encourage my clients to slowly stretch before and after exercise. My rule of thumb here is to focus on active (yet still gentle) stretching and mobility exercises before the workout session and on slower passive stretches afterwards.

When Clicking Joints Are A Cause For Concern

Although clicking joints are usually nothing to worry about, there are some cases where an underlying condition is causing them. These usually fall in one of two categories: inflammation or injury. The difference is in the timing. It would be days, weeks, or even months before an inflamed tissue around the joint cause’s pain. If there was injury, though, you would know right away, especially if you tore a thick tendon.

Injuries That Could Cause Clicking Joints

At the extreme level one of the loudest sounds your body can make is if your Achilles tendon snaps. This is the thick cord that connects your ankle to the back of your lower leg and if it ruptures the sound is similar to a gun being fired!

A tear is more subtle and if it didn't happen at the moment of high tension on the tendon, the tearing of your heel cord could resemble a joint cracking. If you hear your ankles clicking and you suspect there could be some injury, observe yourself in the next few hours. Is there any pain or swelling? If so, chances are you could have damaged the tendon and it would be a good idea to have it checked out by a doctor.

Another common injury is twisting your knee. This type of injury usually happens to football players but with a bit of bad luck, you could even injure your knee running on the treadmill. The clicking sound, in this case, often means you may have damaged the cartilage as well. Once again, talk to a doctor and try to put as little pressure on the joint as possible.

Clicking and pain in your feet or toes could be the unexpected consequence of wearing uncomfortable shoes. I have seen it happen to a few of my female clients that were particularly fond of high heels. As hard as it might be, try to switch to flats and the problem usually subsides.

Clicking Joints And Inflammation

Arthritis is the generic term used to describe inflammation of the joints. As scary as it may sound, joint inflammation happens to a lot more (and more diverse) group of people than you might expect. It’s not just reserved for the elderly, I have met girls as young as 17-18 suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Although there are over a hundred types of arthritis the two most common are:

  • Osteoarthritis that comes with age and it affects virtually all joints in your arms and legs
  • Rheumatoid arthritis which is an autoimmune disorder, essentially your own immune system turning against your joints.

Sometimes clicking joints and pain can mean a serious underlying issue

Although arthritis patients require complex therapy (that this article won’t do justice), there are a couple of tell-tale signs that your clicking joints could be arthritis:

  • Trouble moving the joint
  • Pain and stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Muscle aches around the joint
  • Secondary effects on your entire system - weight loss, poor sleep, fatigue, loss of muscle flexibility or even function. Make sure you watch out for these and seek medical advice if you notice any of them.
Sometimes clicking joints and pain can mean a serious underlying issue

 

More Reasons For Clicking Joints And How To Improve Them

Sometimes the problem just can't be explained. An old injury that didn't heal properly, an incorrect alignment of your joint, over-exercising, all of these could cause clicking joints. Here are a few tips to minimise the cracking:

  • Stretch properly before exercise. It improves joint mobility and it also increases the flexibility of the tendons. This way, you are less likely to suffer an injury.
  • Have at least one rest day per week. Less can sometimes be more! Especially if you are a beginner. Overdoing it could cause injury.
  • Make sure you have enough nutritious food in your diet and you’re properly hydrated. A few of my favourite, joint-friendly foods are nuts and berries(loaded with healthy antioxidants that fight inflammation), oily fish like salmon (for the joint, and brain, healthy omega-3's), and the occasional steak (that contains all important amino acids for your joint fluid).

To help you get started on your way to healthier joints, here is my favourite pre-workout active stretching routine:

  • Push-ups with a twist - a regular push-up except you extend an arm when you come up. I usually do at least ten. If you can't do a standard push-up yet, going on your knees is perfectly fine as well.
  • Stretch walking lunges - I have my clients do a few laps around the gym, alternating legs on each step. Just make sure your knees never pass your toes.
  • High knees with a knee to chest - Essentially, you do three to five high knee jumps and then you hold your knee to your chest for five seconds. Spend at least five minutes on this and your knees will thank you.
  • Inward and outward foot rolls - The most basic of exercises but it makes the world of a difference, especially in clients with feet issues or pain.

So in closing are your clicking joints anything to worry about? Well, if you don’t experience any pain, then NO. But if the joints are painful, swollen or restricted in anyway it could be the signs of something more sinister and you need to visit your GP to find out exactly what is going on.

 

 

What helps your clicking joints? Do you have any tips or questions for me? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

David


Kinesio Tape: Helpful or Just Hype?

 Using Kinesio tape for treating injuries or inflammation is not anything new. It has been in treatment protocols for decades. Most experienced Physio's and massage therapists are familiar with the method. As someone who has struggled with numerous injuries in the past, I'm often seen with bright pink tape all over me!

But when a client comes to me and asks for advice on how to use it? A client without much background in professional sport? Who has not heard it from a doctor or a therapist but from her co-worker? Then it's easy to see that Kinesio tape has become a trend.

Since it is something I swear by, I thought I would share my thoughts with you, rather than just my client. What is Kinesio tape? Who is it for? How does it work (and is it a placebo)? Read on to find out!

What Exactly Is Kinesio Tape?

Basically, it's a tape for your skin. It is made out of a thin and stretchy cotton fabric with adhesive on one side and it's almost identical to human skin in the way that it behaves. Kinesio tape has the same thickness and elasticity and it moves just like your skin does. Athletes love that because it provides support without constricting movement.

Kinesio tape was first developed in Japan for treating musculoskeletal issues. Then their Olympic team started using it and from there it spread all over the world. Professional athletes use it to recover from injury but also to improve form and performance. Taping is one of the most versatile methods in kinesiotherapy, no wonder now it is reaching the general public as well.

What Do You Use It For?

Here is a list of conditions that taping could improve:

  • Acute soft tissue injuries - These are muscle strains, tendon and ligament injury, as well as bruising.
  • Bone injuries and pain - Support for after the fracture has healed, shin splints and even growing pains in teenagers.
  • Joint issues - Poor posture, instability, swelling, misalignment.
  • Tendon and fascia inflammation
  • Inflammatory and autoimmune conditions like lupus, arthritis and fibromyalgia.
  • Low muscle tone and muscle weakness

Obviously, if you have a serious medical condition like arthritis, fibromyalgia or general inflammation  then kinesio tape may well provide some welcome pain relief. However, it should not be seen as a cure-all, but as part of a treatment plan it can certainly play its part.

Does It Even Work?

You can still exercise with Kinesio tape!

So does it actually work?!

I'm sure there are many people out there that will point to a lack of scientific evidence to support the benefits of kinesio tape and maybe they are right to do so. I have experienced first hand the support and pain relief it provides and as a result maybe a placebo effect does come into play each time I now use it.

As with any treatment I offer or fitness programme I design, I am always looking to provide something that is appropriate for each individual. So no matter what I think, if a client really believes that this approach is beneficial to their performance, then that's good enough for me!

How does it work?

Unlike normal strapping tape, Kinesio tape provides elastic support. The traditional strapping technique restricts movement by wrapping non-elastic tape around the area of injury. That is great for the first few hours but it has to be Removed soon after because it restricts circulation and movement. Strapping with a rigid tape can actually slow down the healing process as blood does not reach the spot efficiently. Not enough oxygen and glucose get to the site and both of those are key to recovery.

Kinesio tape provides dynamic support. It protects your tissues, muscles, and joints while still giving you a great range of motion plus preserving circulation. Since it is non-restrictive in all senses of the word, you can wear it for days. Depending on how often you shower, it could last anywhere from 4 to 7 days. Even with rigorous exercise, applications have never lasted me less than 4 days.

The Benefits Of Kinesio Tape

The main benefit of kinesiology taping is it gives you 24-hour support without any negative consequences (like poor circulation or restricted movement). After an injury, your muscles get weaker. Maintaining proper form - be it during exercise or simply in your day to day activities - is more difficult. As a result, you can strain other areas that don't normally get that much tension.

It is a vicious cycle of the post-injury weakness causing more injury. The point of taping is to put the joint/muscle/tendon back to its' correct position. It helps posture problems for that very same reason. As for swelling and inflammation, the benefit comes from the passive lift to your skin. The tape gently tugs on your skin which makes the vein and lymph drainage faster. The quicker the drainage, the easier to reduce the swelling.

Since by-products like lactic acid are also removed through the veins, taping can also help reduce soreness the days following exercise.

 

How To Use Kinesio Tape

I always tell my clients to start with the basics. It's true for exercise, diet, and all other health habits you adopt. Of course, if you have any underlying issues that cause the pain and swelling, you would have to tell a doctor about them. Taping a sore ankle is not the same as taping to reduce arthritis-related pain. In the first case, you could probably get away with just the Kinesio tape. In the second, your healthcare provider should probably adjust the other treatment for arthritis. As always, when in doubt, consult a doctor.

There are some basic rules to follow when you apply the tape. First, clean skin is a must. Having any lotion, sweat, or even just water makes the glue weaker. It's best to take a shower before taping and then to clean the area with a cotton pad dipped in 70% alcohol. Make sure the ethanol dries before you apply the tape, though. Also, never use it if you have open wounds or if you have had reactions to acrylic glue before.

As for the actual tape, always cut it round in the edges. This way it will not peel and will last you longer. Don't just stick it on either. You want to have two anchor points where the tape is not stretched. For the rest of the tape, some stretch and tension are more than welcome. It is what gives you the effect.

I have filmed a short video tutorial for an ankle injury taping. Since it's one of the most common issues my clients get, I am hoping it helps you out. If you have any questions on Kinesio tape technique, I would be happy to answer in the comments down bellow!


MCT Oil: What Nobody Is Telling You About The Ultimate Body Hack!

MCT oil has been around for a few years now and has recently gained huge popularity via Dave Asprey and his bullet proof coffee. 

However it wasn't that long ago, that all fats were being deemed unhealthy. So what has changed people's minds so much over the last few years and why should you take MCT oil every day?

Let's dive right in:

What Is MCT Oil?

MCT oil has plenty of benefits to your physical and mental health. Yes, that also includes better cognition.

Your body functions on three fuel sources; carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids. Lipids include fats (also known as triglycerides).

Protein has always been viewed as the building blocks for muscle growth, carbohydrates as our fuel to move and fats as something to avoid at all costs!

I'm sure by now, you now know that fat doesn't make you fat, in fact it is vital for numerous bodily functions.

An example of the "good fat" your body thrives on is triglycerides which are made up of glycerol and three fatty acids attached to it. The glycerol is the backbone and you have the fatty acids sticking out from it. It is found naturally in coconuts, coconut oil and in butter and other high-fat dairy products from grass-fed cows and goats.

So what is so good about MCT Oil?

To digest triglycerides, you need enzymes and bile salts. These transform the fat so it can enter your bloodstream. With medium-chain triglycerides, however, you don't have to do that. They already have the correct structure, to begin with so they are much easier to digest and absorb.

Not only that, but MCT oil can also improve protein metabolism and induce ketogenesis. - another buzz word at the moment.

Ketogenesis is simply another way for your body to distribute energy but has gained popularity recently as the process has been marketed as "turning your body into a fat burning machine!" Part of this statement holds some truth, however there are some side effects to ketosis.

This is a whole other subject that I will go into in a later article but basically, as your body burns fat, the liver produces ketones out of fats. Ketones cross the blood-brain barrier very efficiently, which is why MCT oil is sometimes called brain food.

Here's the key thing, a fat deficiency can seriously tamper with your hormones. Your body needs fats in order to produce oestrogen, testosterone, and a bunch of other incredibly important hormones. When you avoid fats in your diet, you risk an imbalance.

This is why I see first hand how so many female clients now have screwed up their bodies as a result of following poor dietary advice over the years. They have been badly advised to avoid ALL forms of fat in their diet and as a result they now have a hormone imbalance and symptoms such as weight gain, mood swings, lowered immunity, poor physical and mental performance, the list goes on and on.

Consuming MCT oil changes all of this. It gives your body and brain the energy boost it needs, it supports your digestive system and even has antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties.

 

The Reason I Put MCT Oil In My Coffee Every Morning

When people ask me how do I like my coffee, they rarely expect to hear 'With oil in it'. Bulletproof coffee is the real deal when it comes to boosting energy, improving my performance, and giving me a variety of other health benefits.

Obviously, it gives me all the antioxidants black coffee has anyway which are quite impressive. It lowers your risk of getting type 2 diabetes, prevents Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, not to mention coffee lowers appetite and it can help with weight loss.

Another great reason to have MCT Oil in your coffee is that caffeine is also soluble in fats. When you drink coffee on an empty stomach, the caffeine in the water will get absorbed fairly quickly. The MCT takes a little longer to be absorbed. That is why adding it to your morning cuppa gives you lasting energy (and by lasting energy I mean 4-5 hours at least).

Finally, To Sum Up The MCT Oil Benefits...

You have the energy boost and the coffee benefits, but Bulletproof coffee also gives you all the goodness of medium-chain fatty acid supplementation. That means:

  • An easy to digest source of energy. And it is the kind of energy that your brain loves, which improves your cognition visibly (even after your first cup of Bulletproof coffee).
  • Hormone support and imbalance prevention.
  • Burning more calories and an aid in weight loss. MCT oil is popular in the fitness community because it's a fat that helps you burn more fat.
  • Immune and gut health. There is evidence that MCT oil is beneficial to your gut microbiome. It helps balance out the bacteria by fighting the pathogens and supporting the good microbiome species. Since your gut health is related to virtually all other aspects of your well-being (including mental wellness), MCT oil has some major health benefits for your system as a whole.

So there you have it - the reason why I take my coffee with a teaspoon spoonful of MCT oil.

Do you agree with all this?  Do you have any Bulletproof coffee tips and hacks? Or do you just have a question to share? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

Cheers,

David

 


Compression Socks: Get Your Facts Right

Your grandma wears them on long flights and now apparently nurses, waiters, and even those with a 9-5 office job are testing them out.

What is this trend about anyway?

Are compression socks any good?

And are there any performance enhancing benefits for runners or are they yet another over-hyped product?

Let's separate fact from fiction once and for all!

What Are Compression Socks?

Compression socks (or compression stockings) are designed to make your veins drain faster and more efficiently. By doing that, they can prevent blood clots from forming in your limbs, travelling all the way to your heart or lungs and causing an embolism.

Do Your Veins Need The Extra Help?

While arteries have a thick muscle layer that contracts or expands in response to changes in the blood pressure, veins don't have anywhere near enough muscle to do that. Instead, they have valves that keep the blood flowing one way only. The valves are pretty efficient in a healthy adult. However, as you age or if you are inactive, they begin to suffer damage.

When the valves are damaged, blood can flow in both directions and it often flows backwards. It can pool and that pooling is what causes varicose veins.

What Could Go Wrong With Your Veins?

Long flights can hurt your veins

Your body is a smart machine but not everything goes to plan all the time. There is plenty that could go wrong with your vein function. Starting with the obvious, inflammation.

Virtually all tissues in your body can become inflamed and the veins are no exception. Phlebitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the veins. It could happen after an IV line is removed, as a result of trauma, or in people with conditions like lupus, and certain types of cancer. It can damage the lining of your veins and cause blood clots to form. Having varicose veins puts you at a higher risk for phlebitis.

Speaking of varicose veins, they happen when a valve is damaged or destroyed. Spider veins is the equivalent of varicose veins for your smallest blood vessels. Both are a result of a sedentary lifestyle, as well as a certain predisposition some people have.

Blood clots might form even if your veins are intact. Deep-vein thrombosis is a life-threatening condition in which clots form in the deep veins of your leg (or more rarely, your arm). That blood clot might travel to your lung or heart where it causes an embolism. Plenty of factors put you at risk for developping deep-vein thrombosis:

  • A decreased blood flow in veins - spending long hours without moving (i.e. during a flight, while you are working, or if you are on bed rest) often causes that.
  • Changes to the blood vessel wall - inflammation and high cholesterol are two things that damage the lining of your vein.
  • Increased clotting tendency - this could be congenital or related to a disease (lupus, cancer, hormone imbalances, including the ones related to pregnancy)

So How Do I Look After My Veins?

Relax. I know virtually everything you do on a normal day is a risk factor for deep-vein thrombosis. While you can't entirely prevent it from happening, there are easy steps to take for prevention. Here is where the compression socks come in.

Doctors usually tell all patients with venous disease to use compression socks. They are cheap, have virtually zero side effects, and they help a lot. But before I tell you why here is a little reminder. I get clients and people who follow me online constantly asking me about the next great 'health hack'. These can range from supplements to compression socks, to new massage techniques or fancy treatments.

I hate to break your bubble, but you can't 'out-health' an unhealthy diet and exercise programme. If you want healthy veins, healthy circulation, a healthy heart, a healthy you, it starts with cleaner eating and a little more movement.

This reduces inflammation in your body, keeps your muscles happy and doing their job as best as they can, and helps you maintain a healthy weight. So before you jump onto the compression socks bandwagon, try to simply stand up a little more while you are working. Take a bathroom break, go talk to a co-worker, or take a stroll to the water cooler.

It is that simple.

How Compression Socks Can Help Your Veins

Unlike your normal socks and stockings, compression socks use a very strong elastic material to put pressure on your leg. By compressing the muscles together you get an effect similar to that of the skeletal-muscle pump. The socks are tightest around your ankles and they get less constrictive around your knee and thighs. This is the direction in which blood should normally flow.

By constricting the veins of your lower leg more than the ones in the upper part, compression socks increase the pressure and encourage blood to flow to your heart. It is as though your muscles were doing it. Since they imitate the skeletal-muscle pump, compression socks are good for people who sit a lot, as well as for those who stand too much. Either way, they increase blood flow and improve vein drainage. That is how they prevent deep-vein thrombosis and how they could potentially save your life.

Compression Socks: The Verdict

Although they will not make your veins instantly healthier, compression socks live up to their reputation by assisting with any circulation issues. I'd recommend you grab a pair and wear them on your next long flight. Or your next 8-hour sitting day.

Looking at it from a performance perspective, will they make you run faster?

Put simply, No.

They've become a big fashion accessory, particularly in the running and crossfit communities and many athletes swear by them, but in my opinion you won't see any performance enhancing benefits by wearing them.

Of course there may be some kind of placebo effect and if you really believe in them or just really like running in stockings then Who am I to stop you!

I guess they'll keep your legs warm on those cold winter mornings, but they are not going to turn you into a world beater over-night, my advice would be to give them to your granny for her next holiday flight!

Do you have any questions or any other health trends you would like me to share your opinion on? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Cheers,

David


3 Great Reasons Everybody Should Meditate (And Why You Are Doing It Wrong)

Meditation has definitely got a bit of a cool reputation these days. What used to be a practice reserved for the deeply religious or carefree hippy types is now a daily essential for sports performers and CEO's. But what actually is it and why should you make it a daily habit? In this article, I want to give you the top reasons to meditate every day - simple, straightforward, and scientifically backed!

But First... What Is Mediation?

In its' core, meditation is just a mental exercise. It has been around for thousands of years. Virtually all major religions have their own version of a meditative practice. The English word meditation comes from the Latin verb meditari, 'to contemplate' but meditation doesn't necessarily have to do with actively thinking about anything. In fact, the goal is the opposite... Clearing your mind and grounding yourself is at the core of a meditation practice.

It all sounds very deep and spiritually-charged but meditation is not limited to Buddhist monks and aspiring life coaches. The sort of meditation most people practice focuses on mental benefits like stress relief, relaxation, and improved self-awareness.

One of my favourite ways to explain what meditation is comes from the Headspace app (which is a really good place to get started with meditation).

They suggest that you imagine your mind as a motorway during rush hour. The cars are your thoughts and clearly there are tons of them.

At times this can be really overwhelming. Meditation is about stepping back to the roadside and simply observing as the thoughts pass by. Over time, you learn not to fight all of these thoughts flying around and instead, sit back and watch as your mind clears.

Meditation And Your Brain

Meditation is a workout for your brain and in my experience, it's not an overstatement to say that meditation improves virtually all aspects of your life.

In terms of mental health, meditation reduces depression, anxiety, and stress. It is incredibly effective in treating existing depression and can help you overcome ruminative thinking (where you go over a thought over and over) and it also improves your self-esteem.

I've recommended a daily meditation programme to a number of clients and there have been some impressive improvements to their performance at the gym. In less than a few weeks clients come in calmer and more patient with themselves. If they do hit a plateau, they rarely get frustrated but rather adopt an 'I will do what I have got to do' attitude and in turn, they achieve much more impressive results.

Your Brain At Work

Meditation does not only improve how well your mind deals with emotions, it also ups your cognitive performance. Here are a few (science-backed!) benefits:

  • Improved memory (including rapid memory recall)
  • Fosters creativity
  • Makes you more efficient at dealing with stress
  • Improves focus (also in people with ADHD)

I have been lucky enough to work with some very successful people throughout the years. What I have noticed is that those who meditate were not only higher up the hierarchy but they also handled their responsibilities in a calmer, healthier way. New clients that I convinced to take up meditation always say that it has improved their careers and work-life balance visibly.

My advice: If you want to be successful, meditate.

Meditation Made Simple

Building your meditation practice can feel like the exact opposite of relaxation. There are hundreds of different approaches and most beginners become so overwhelmed that they never actually get consistent. It is a mistake I always see in novice meditators. Here is my challenge to you: start with your morning coffee. 

The point is to make meditation a habit.The reality is, most people don't spend ANY time alone with their own thoughts! We are constantly stimulated by noise, music, television and of course our best friend - our mobile phone! For the next seven days, I challenge you to commit to spending five quality minutes alone with your coffee. Focus all of your attention on that morning cuppa. No phones, no radio, no driving, no chatting with your kids or spouse. Just you and your coffee.

Once you manage to keep that up for seven consecutive days, try taking 10 minutes in the evening for some more traditional meditation. The Headspace app is a great place to start and so are the guided meditations you can find on YouTube. Don't beat yourself up if you can't achieve complete clarity of mind from the very first time. What matters is showing up and making it a habit. Get comfortable with being alone with your own thoughts, pressing the pause button on your hectic life and just being in that moment. Over time, you will notice yourself getting better and you'll probably want to commit more time to it. And that is how you build a meditation practice, the stress-free way.

If you have any additional questions or if you have any tips to share, I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

Cheers,

David


My Favourite Home Exercise Bike and My Ideas for the Best Home Workout

Having a blog is an amazing thing for me because I can now reach more people than I have ever dreamed of. Connecting with you has pushed me to be more flexible and creative with my fitness advice. After all, you guys come from all walks of life (and so many different places), so what works for my personal clients isn't always a viable solution for my readers. Even going to the gym is not an option for many so in this article, I am giving you my top tips for building one in the comfort of your home. Read on to find why you need a home gym, how to choose the space, and what equipment to get(including a recommendation for my all-time favourite home exercise bike)!

Everybody Needs A Home Gym

Home workout equipment can be pricey and complicated but building your own home gym doesn't have to be. In fact, most of the time all you need is some space for bodyweight exercises. When busy clients ask me about incorporating exercise into their schedule, I tell them it doesn't take more than an empty corner (whether it's in their living room or in a hotel that they are staying in) and 20 minutes. You can get an awesome workout with basic exercises like squats, push-ups, lunges, and planks.

If you can only buy one thing for your home gym make it a thick, high-quality yoga mat. This gives you the grip and support to perform so many different floor exercises. Besides, you can replace weights with random objects but nothing can prevent the dreaded crunch-induced friction burn.

How About Cardio?

Great question. You can't fit many cardio machines in a small home gym space. You could do bodyweight interval training but people often aim at a higher intensity than that. If you have been following me for a while, you know how much I love high-intensity interval training. Here are just a few of its benefits:

  • It's quick and efficient. 15 minutes of HIIT, three times a week give you better results than an hour on the treadmill every day. I have personally witnessed it plus there is science to back it.
  • A HIIT workout burns more calories both during and after the session. For the 24 hours after you have done HIIT cardio, your metabolism speeds up and the fat melts off.
  • It can reduce heart rate and blood pressure, even in people who already struggle with cardiovascular problems. In other words, HIIT not only prevents future problems but it actually makes your heart healthier.
  • HIIT exercise reduces insulin resistance. Insulin resistance happens when your cells don't respond to the insulin telling them to use up blood sugar. It's a risk factor for type 2 diabetes plus it makes losing weight essentially impossible (you can't burn fat when insulin is up).

In the gym, I love putting clients on the rowing machine and on the bikes for some HIIT cardio. Then there comes the air bike, which essentially combines the two. It is efficient, it doesn't take much space, and it gives you a five-star HIIT workout. My personal favourite home exercise bike is the Schwinn Airdyne AD8 because it's easy to set up, sturdy, and it gives you a lot of options to monitor your workout.

But What Makes A Home Exercise Bike Great, Anyway?

I get asked a lot about the best cardio machines to have at home and my usual response is which one do you think your laundry will look best hanging on?! As sadly this is what usually happens to so many home gyms. If however you are serious about setting up a training space at home then read on... There are so many different stationary bikes available on the market that choosing one gets quite confusing, even for gym rats like me. The basic difference between the various types is simply the resistance. Exercise bikes use either friction, weights, magnets, or a fan to give you resistance.

On most bikes, you set up a certain resistance much like you would set up a treadmill to a certain speed. On my particular favourite, the air bike, has a fan in the front (where a wheel would usually be) and the faster you spin, the more friction between the fan and the air. Essentially, the harder you pedal, the harder it gets, which allows bikes like the Schwinn Airdyne to have infinite resistance levels.

Another major pro of the air bike is that it engages both arms and legs. It's a full-body exercise machine that adjusts to your level and in turn gives you a higher calorie burn. Plus, this form of cardio removes the impact of hitting the ground (or the treadmill) so your joints and ligaments get a break. A home exercise bike is probably the safest and most effective form of cardio you can do by yourself.

The Perfect Home Gym Workout

Over the years I have seen so many people with good intentions of improving their fitness levels but sadly with no plan whatsoever to actually make this happen. As a result they see no changes and usually quit within a few weeks.

If you want to see change, you can't just spend 20 minutes doing random exercises and call it a day. You need a program that fits your level and fitness goals. This is where I come in to help build and adjust a program. There is a lot that goes into it, but here are my basic tips for building a home gym workout that will give you actual results:

  • Figure out your goals and be honest about them. 'I want to be healthier.' will not get you out of bed if a flat stomach and a toned backside are what you are really after!
  • Don't fear weights. For every workout, aim to spend at least 70% of the time doing strength training exercises. Squats, lunges, push-ups pull-ups and twists should be a part of every training programme.
  • Don't just stick to the standard 3 sets of 10. As you've read in previous blog posts I'm a big fan of Time Under Tension Training. Slow things down and aim to push yourself to the limit. I would suggest that you pick 5-6 body weight moves (that you know how to do properly) and perform each of them slowly for time or until failure.
  • You can choose your own intervals during HIIT cardio. My favourite is 30 seconds on, 15 seconds off. During the on time, you need to go all out and earn your rest period! The air bike is great for that because you can really push yourself and there is no limit. Then during the rest period, you just bike at whatever speed is comfortable. Don't stop but don't worry about the speed or rpm.
  • Avoid doing HIIT on consecutive days. Three times per enough, if you are really pushing yourself.

Finally, I thought I would share how my own home gym looks like!

I would love to hear your questions and thoughts in the comments down below! And if you have a home gym space that you are proud of, share a pic on Instagram and don't forget to tag me @davidosgathorp.

Let's get inspired together!