Are you still foam rolling your IT band?

My IT bands have been my nemesis since running cross-country in high school, although it wasn't until college when I was working for a chiro and DPT that I realized that my knee pain was actually not knee joint pain at all, it was coming from my IT band. At the time, he proposed that the pain came from a weak gluteus medius. I found that mind-blowing!

Now, over 15 years later, research has come a long way. In anatomy, we learned about the individual muscles in isolation--a necessary, but overly simplistic and reductionistic approach to the musculoskeletal system.

Okay, back to the IT band...the distal fibers of the gluteus maximus actually mostly insert straight onto the fascia lata, which is continuous with the IT band. So, we can almost think of the IT band as a tendon of the gluteus maximus. The gluteus maximus connects with the thoracolumbar fascia. You see where I am going with this...the muscles are connected and not in isolation when it comes to force transmission!

So, there is nothing necessarily wrong with foam rolling your IT band, but if this is the site of your pain, it is quite likely that the IT band pain is actually being caused by a fascial restriction in a completely different area along the fascial plane (for example, somewhere in your lower or upper back on the opposite side, or your leg, or your hip).

To get the most out of your foam rolling efforts, consult with someone who practices Fascial Manipulation®--Stecco® method. They will develop a hypothesis about where the true cause of your pain lies, and treat accordingly. You can find me in Louisville or Lyons, Colorado (I have completed Level 1 and Level 2 workshops and am working on certification). To find a certified specialist in your area, visit http://www.fascialmanipulation.com/en/patiens/find-certify-fascial-manipulation-specialist/

Resource:

Stecco, A., Gilliar, W., Hill, R., Fullerton, B., & Stecco, C. (2013). The anatomical and functional relation between gluteus maximus and fascia lata. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 17(4), 512–517. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2013.04.004

What is Fascia?

I chose a mountain bike jump for this post, because to be a great mountain bike rider, you have to MOVE well! Working on fascial densifications will help you move better, more fluid, leading to optimization of your muscle strength and power, and hopefully less crashing!

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The Magic of Water

I was out hiking this weekend with family in the rainforest of the Pacific Northwest, and came across this quote on one of the signs along this wonderful hiking trail. 

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” Loren Eiseley

I have always been amazed at the properties of water. Here are some fun facts about the magic of water:

  1. The hydrogen bond is responsible for the fact that water is more dense in its liquid state than in its solid state.

  2. Water is the only substance that exists in three phases.

  3. Water has the ability to absorb and communicate large quantities of heat.

  4. Our bodies consist of about 60-70% water! 

  5. About 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water.

The late Dr. Masaru Emoto performed experiments where he played beautiful music to water, or said loving positive thoughts to the water. He then froze the water and observed the crystals under the microscope. 

The water that was played beautiful music, or was spoken loving words, created beautiful, complex patterns in the crystals; whereas the water that was not played music to, or was given hateful thoughts, did not produce the same type of beautiful crystal. 

Dr. Masaru Emoto believes that this is due to resonance. Back to Einstein’s statement that “energy is everything.” 

If words have the ability to change the structures of frozen water crystals, and our bodies consist of 60-70% water, how might these words that we tell ourselves affect our bodies? 

One of my favorite things about naturopathic medicine is how our most effective therapies are based on the properties of water. 

Mind-body medicine may be able to change the resonance and structure of the water in our bodies, leading to greater health and wellbeing.

Hydrotherapy is the use of water in any of its three forms for therapeutic benefits. The effect of heat transfer is one of the key mechanisms in hydrotherapy due to its affect on the blood vessels and cells in the body, and probably some unknown effects.

Homeopathy, the principle of like cures like, is thought to be effective based on the idea of the “memory of water”, although, we are not quite sure how it works. What we do know is there is something special about water and how it amplifies the resonance of the homeopathic remedy, and its energetic effects on the body. 

While it is so easy to take this precious substance for granted, I have to agree with the above quote, that water is magical, and if you are looking for healing, you may just find it in both the known, and unknown properties of water. 

Resources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujQAk9EM3xg

Vitamin D - Supplements or Sunshine?

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What is the best way to get vitamin D? Sunshine or supplements? 

In my experience as a naturopathic physician, nature pretty much always wins, so I intuitively know the answer to this. Of course, sunshine is best! God made sunshine, which is necessary to sustain life on this planet!

But, my science-y mind wonders, has there been any research done to support this?

First, let’s talk about how we get vitamin D. We have a form of cholesterol that is stored in our skin called 7-dehydrocholesterol. This molecule absorbs UV B radiation and is converted to what we call a “pre-vitamin D3” which turns into vitamin D3 in our kidneys and liver. 

We need Vitamin D for regulating calcium and phosphorus, in order to mineralize our bones. Additionally, Vitamin D has effects on our immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems.

The vitamin D receptor is found in most of our body’s cells. It is the binding of vitamin D to this receptor that helps to regulate cell differentiation and growth. 

Low vitamin D status has been observed in those who have developed colorectal cancer, breast cancer, infertility, and auto-immune disorders including type-1 diabetes, SLE, and multiple sclerosis.

There is more research emerging about how some people a genetic predisposition to poorly metabolize vitamin D. This can be tested through salivary genetic testing, and is known as the VDR SNP. 

What this means to me is that some people just inherently need more Vitamin D than others. 

So let’s look at some research on sunlight vs. oral vitamin D. 

I came across an interesting study where the serum vitamin D status was tested in Polish athletes training in different environments in the winter (outdoors in Poland, indoors in Poland, and outdoors at a lower latitude), and in a supplement group (athletes training outside in Poland who were receiving oral vitamin D supplementation). The researchers discovered that oral supplementation improved vitamin D concentration by 45%, but sun exposure increased vitamin D concentration by 85%. 

So, it appears that vitamin D from sunshine may be more potent than supplements! Nature wins again! Of course, more research would be needed to verify this, but this seems like common sense to me.

Another study sought out to determine whether Vitamin D supplementation was more effective at improving vitamin D status (and reducing PTH levels) than advising sun exposure. They found the oral supplementation was more effective, but there was no measure of adherence to the advised sunlight exposure. It seems likely to me that many people simply did not adhere to the recommendations.

At any rate, what to do with this information? First of all, if you are chronically sick, consider getting your 25-hydroxyvitamin D measured, and also seeing if you could have the VDR SNP’s that make you one of those people that just needs more vitamin D. 

Also, I believe there may be some energetic type potency of the way our body absorbs vitamin D from the sun. It really seems like a magical process, and if we deny our bodies of that, it makes sense there would be consequences. 

To improve Vitamin D levels, get sunshine if you can! It is best to have much of your body exposed in the sunshine long enough to absorb sun but not get burned! So, for most that might just be 10-15 minutes/day, depending on your latitude. 

If you are in the Northern Latitude like me, you might need to increase that time in the Spring and Fall to maybe 30-60 minutes. Oral supplementation is necessary in the winter months. 

If you are closer to the equator, it may be that 10-15 minutes of exposed sunshine a day is plenty, being careful to wear hats, and thin clothes, staying in the shade the rest of the day.

Too much sunshine, enough that causes burning, can be oxidative (cancer-causing) and counter-productive. Just be smart about the amount of sunshine you are getting. Moderation, folks! 

Me, personally? Well, I am homozygous (I have both copies) of the VDR SNP, and am a sunshine girl. Excuse me while I go get some Vitamin D!

PMID: 27732653 , PMID: 20683712

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Dr. April’s Top 10 Stress-Relieving Activities within 10 miles of Black Diamond!

I am in love with this little town Black Diamond! The rugged, yet beautiful, country setting with rolling hills, and vistas of colorful trees, with the dramatic backdrop of Mt. Rainier is simply stunning this time of year. Many of us lead busy lives commuting to and from the city, or chasing our children around, but Black Diamond is the perfect place to come home to, with no shortage of quality activities. I have made a list of my top 10 favorite stress-relieving activities, right here in (or near) our home town.

  1. Lake Sawyer Regional Park
    https://goo.gl/maps/A8vHrhFNrk22 

This is a little-known place to get away for a nature walk down to the lake. The walk down to the lake is about a half-mile, on a well-maintained trail. Bring a book and sit on the bench, while glancing up to see the lily pads and ducks float by. If you are lucky, you just may see a Bald Eagle! My toddler loves to explore every nook and cranny of the rocks, and enjoys dipping his bare feet in the water. If you are up for some exercise, this trail is the gateway to many more beautiful trails meandering around Rock Creek.

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PRO TIP: There is a portable toilet at the trailhead, but no restrooms at the lake, so plan accordingly.

2. Flaming Geyser State Park

https://goo.gl/maps/sbQnPN7kE5T2

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Scenic, open space on the Green River! Take a walk down to the banks of the river. Hike around the open field and explore more river banks. If you are into RC aircraft, there is a dedicated place to fly, and picnic benches to bring the whole family to hang out.

PRO TIP: If going on a hot summer, weekend day, expect there to be crowds and very little parking! This is a hot spot for river floating!

3. Studio Barre and Lounge

https://www.studiobarreandlounge.com/

Hit up a yoga class! This is a top-notch local yoga/barre studio on par with the boutique studio’s in Seattle, with a quirky flare that you can only find in Black Diamond. You will be greeted by the friendliest staff, enticed by the Kombucha bar, and encouraged by down-to-earth instructors. I recommend the Hot Hatha Fusion, Slow Flow, or Yin classes for stress-relief.

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Pro Tip: Keep your hand open at the end of class to receive a cool towel for your eyes with refreshing essential oils. Don’t be afraid to rest for 5-10 minutes, even if the other people are getting up. You deserve this time to yourself!

4. Black Diamond Open Space (BDOS)

https://www.evergreenmtb.org/trails/bdos#general

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This is what drew my family to Black Diamond in the first place! Miles and miles of mountain bike trails. These trails are designed and built by a passionate and professional crew. I can’t think of a better way to burn off the stress of the week, than to bomb through these trails with an ear to ear grin on your face, breathing in the fresh air, stopping at the creek for a break to rest and connect with friends, and giggle at the funny trails on the Gnome Trail. If mountain biking is not appealing to you, these trails are hiker-friendly, as well.

PRO TIP: If you don’t own a mountain bike, stop by Bike Master’s in Maple Valley https://www.bikemasters.net/, and they will point you in the right direction. While full-suspension is the most comfortable, it is also more expensive, and you’ll be fine with a hard-tail on the trails here in Black Diamond.

5. Lumber House Brewery

http://lumberhousebrew.com/

This local brew house just opened in July of 2018, but is unifying the town of Black Diamond by offering delicious brew, lively music events, and excellent customer service. You might be thinking...but Dr. April, you are a Naturopathic Doc. Yes! Hops is actually a great bitter herb, helping to improve digestion. And the value of a gathering place, and community, is priceless. Let’s support our local brew house, and just not overdo it. One saying that has always stuck with me, is “there is never a good reason to have more than 2 beers”, and I agree! They serve up non-alcoholic beverages as well if that is more your thing.

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PRO: Like them on Facebook to stay up to date on their events, including live music, crafts, and more! https://www.facebook.com/LumberHouseBrew/

6. Black Gold Coffee

http://blackgoldcoffeeco.com/

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Grab a friend for coffee or tea, and have a meaningful conversation in this cozy coffee shop, boasting artwork with a true Black Diamond, mining-town feel. We all know that having good social relationships are good for our stress-levels, why not enjoy some delicious Dillano’s coffee http://www.dillanos.com/ and connect with a friend?

PRO TIP: Enjoy live music on Thursday evenings in the summer, on their tropical-inspired patio. They are also offering live music on the weekends in the shop, through the Winter.

7. Mason Jar Farm

http://www.themasonjarfarm.com/

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Just a short drive over the Green River bridge brings you into farmland paradise. Open May through October, the Mason Jar Farm offers “Open Farm Fridays” where you can stroll the farm’s gorgeous property where you will stroll through their beautiful gardens, and depending on the season, you will find roses, calendula flowers, fruit trees, and a bounty of vegetable gardens. You can feed the chickens, meet their mini-horses, and enjoy the expansive view of the Enumclaw hills. They have a table of fresh-picked, organic produce, to create a nourishing meal for dinner.

PRO TIP: Pack a picnic lunch, and plan on spending a few hours, just enjoying the grounds and scenery.

8. Black Diamond Library
https://kcls.org/locations/1491/

One of my favorite treasures in our community is the library! I believe it is healing to have time away from our screens, and what better way to get a break from screen-time, than to hang out at the local library? When you first walk in, you will be welcomed by special picks, which are a mix of the most up-to-date, and relevant fiction and non-fiction books, and favorites picked by staff-members. The library is in a gorgeous, natural setting with light-filled windows. Find a cozy chair to peruse through a magazine or book.

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PRO TIP: Download the King County Library App to add pretty much any book, or movie, or TV show you can think of, to your holds. The library will let you know when it is available.

9. Cedar River Trail
https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/cedar-river-trail

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Grab your walking shoes, running shoes, bike, stroller or rollerblades and enjoy this lovely paved trail that goes from Maple Valley to Renton (about 6-miles each way). Park in the lot across the street from “A Matter of Style” https://www.amatterofstyleinc.com/ in Maple Valley and head South toward Renton. My favorite way to enjoy this trail is on rollerblades! This is such a fun, low-impact way to use muscles that you don’t normally get use. This activity brings me right back to being a kid! This is a nice, flat trail with just a few low-traffic crossings. Just be very careful, and ease into this activity, wear all the protective equipment, and don’t accidentally skate straight into freshly-poured asphalt. Breaking your elbow is not stress-relieving, trust me...I speak from experience!

PRO TIP: If you are on bike, bike to the RiverRock Grill & Ale House http://www.riverrockgrill.com/  for Sunday brunch. If you are on rollerblades, be sure to carry a spare pair of shoes in a backpack,
and take your rollerblades off before crossing the street (duh, I know…).
The trail is covered in leaves in the Fall and Winter, so this activity is best saved for Spring.

10. Hydrotherapy or Biofeedback at Althea Naturopathic

Hydrotherapy: I recommend this old-time, naturopathic method of constitutional hydrotherapy to many of my patients for detoxification, blood-building, improvement in digestion, and stress-relief. You can expect to be pampered in a warm and nourishing environment, experiencing the rejuvenating effect of alternating warm and cold towels, and electrical stimulation. After 4-12 sessions, you should notice an improvement in your energy level.

Biofeedback: Come and learn breathing techniques with the Heartmath emWavePro™ software. We will establish your baseline heart rate variability (your heart’s resilience), and learn mind/body techniques for improving this marker. Being able to regulate your breathing and heart rate variability, will help you to manage stress in any situation.

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