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TENNIS BALL TRICK? A tennis ball can reduce stress and fatigue, as well as address shoulder and neck issues

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Some people who have tension in their jaw chew gum, because they think it relieves the tension.  Well, it does and doesn’t, according to oral surgeons at UT Southwester Medical Center at Dallas.

Chewing gum may be a stress reliever of choice for some, but according to Dr. Douglass Sinn, a UT Southwestern oral surgeon,

Constant gum chewing can tire your jaws. It can lead to muscle fatigue, muscle spasms and pain. It may even lead to a syndrome called T-M-J that causes pain in the head or neck and may make it difficult to open and close the jaw properly.”

Signs of TMJ syndrome include:

  • pain in the jaw, neck and head
  • a clicking sound when you open and close your mouth

The medical center suggests looking for other ways to relieve stress: “exercise, squeezing a stress ball, meditation and other relaxation techniques.”  Read this previous post on acupressure and yoga-based ways to relax the jaw.

And, of course, with most things, chewing gum for a short time once in a while is likely safe.  Pay attention, and your body will tell you if it’s an OK amount of activity.

It’s hot hot in the Bay Area.

I was up early (for me) to volunteer at an energizer station for Bike to Work Day.  We handed out goodie bags, fruit, coffee cake, and WATER!

It’s a reminder for me to STAY HYDRATED.  This is a frequent mantra of mine, in person and on this blog.  But I think it merits repeating, a lot.

  • Are your lips dry?
  • Do you have a headache?
  • Are you feeling spaced-out?

Could be that the heat or dry air is affecting you more than you think.

If it helps to use some visual reminders from the Five Elements in Traditional Chinese Medicine, imagine this.  In the Five Elements, the relationship between the Water Element (associated with Winter, flexibility, energy, kidney, bladder, etc.) and Wood Element (associated with the Spring seaon, growth, creativity, planning, gallbladder and live, etc.) is not surprisingly, that water helps wood grow.

So if you’re feeling wilted, give yourself some water.

Name: Great Surge (Liver 3)

This point is on the top of your foot and helps address fatigue, headaches, insomnia related to “busy mind”, hangovers, eye issues (swelling, pain) and alleviates pain. It’s also helpful in energizing.  Some people feel a “great surge” of energy move from their feet, up their legs and bodies; hence the name.

Location: This point is on the top of your foot, in the “valley” at the point where your big toe and second toe bones meet, above the arch of your foot.  See where the dot is on the photo below.  (If you’re familiar with the Hoku point on the hand, you can think of this as the similar point on your foot.)
liverTop
As with all acupressure points except the ones that run down the center of your body, this point is bilateral, which means it’s found on both feet.

To hold: There are several ways you can do this.  It’s important that you are comfortable in your shoulders and arms, so experiment with different ways to hold the point, and see what is most comfortable.

You can sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground, and bend down to reach the top of your foot with your index or middle finger.  Firmly press on the point with a steady pressure.  Hold first for 10 seconds or so, and then work up to a minute as long as it is comfortable.  As with holding all acupressure points, take deep slow breaths as you hold the point.

I find that it can be easier to hold this point by “sandwiching” it between one finger to top of my foot, and another underneath.  See the photos below where I use my thumb on top in one case; the index finger on top in another.

liver32    liver3 3

Often, this point can be tender; if it is, release the pressure if it is too uncomfortable.  This point, too, can take a lot of pressure, so experiment with different degrees of pressure. 

You are encouraged you to seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.

This recent New York Times blog post on The Migraine Diet has obviously hit a nerve. It’s the most emailed article, and there are hundreds of comments.

The blogger writes about her own experience of migraines and of trying out a plan to heal herself that includes 1) stopping medications, 2) identifying and eliminating triggers that can be addressed, like food, alcohol, smoking, and 3) daily preventative measures, which I guess would include things like exercise.

A few comments were about success with acupuncture.  From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, the connection between diet and headaches has been understood.  It’s fairly easy to see the connection for people who tend to get headaches when they are constipated, or overdue for a regular bowel movement.

Among acupressure/acupuncture points, the Hoku point is the one most often suggested for dealing with such a headache. It is on the Large Intestine meridian, which suggests an energetic connection with the Large Intestine organ.  So, if you suffer from a headache or migraine, try pressing/rubbing the Hoku point, which is described here. Also, when you are constipated, try this.

For a strong headache, you may need to hold the point for a while.  Make sure you do not overdo it; that is, that your other hand does not get tired from holding the point.  You can hold the point on both hands.  Hold for one or two minutes, take a break, then hold again.  If you can get someone else to hold them for you, that can be helpful, too.  And try acupuncture if you can.  It can address a point more powerfully than acupressure.

There’s no guarantee that this will address your headache, especially if there is something else triggering it or it’s a migraine.  Of course, you should see a medical professional for a serious condition.

Please note, Hoku is not safe for women who are pregnant. An alternative, which anyone can try, is to squeeze and massage the toes, and the rest of the foot. But especially the toes.  In reflexology, your toes are associated with your head.

I say this to you, because I need to hear it myself!**

I know you’re busy. I know you forget.
But please please, do make sure you stay hydrated.

  • Are your lips dry?
  • Do you drink more caffeine and alcohol than you do pure water? (When I say “pure”, I mean water that doesn’t have any added flavors, except fresh lemon or lime juice.)
  • Is your mouth dry?
  • Do you have a headache?
  • Are you constipated?

Drink some water.

(And please, choose filtered water or good tap water, instead of bottled water whenever possible. Thanks.)

* *
I’ve had a cold that won’t go away for about a week; it’s been mainly been in my upper chest and throat: coughing and very sore throat on the left side. My guess is that one reason this cold happened is that I hadn’t been drinking enough water, even though I’m always telling everyone else to do so! Classic cobbler’s children-have-no-shoes-syndrome; do as I say, not as I do.

I’ve had braces on my teeth for four months now, and I’ve been acutely aware of different ways I hold tension in my jaw and mouth.

Clenching teeth and holding tension in the jaw can lead to discomforts like headaches, neck and shoulder tightness, and TMJ.

Here are some tips to help relax the jaw.

Tongue to Roof of Mouth

I learned this in yoga. Gently allow the tip of your tongue to float up to the roof of your mouth. Your jaw should naturally drop and relax. You can try this any time you notice that you are clenching your teeth or furrowing your brow.

Acu Point: HOKU

This is one of the best overall stress-relieving points. Holding this point on the top of the hand can help with relieving so many discomforts–insomnia, headaches, constipation, shoulder and neck tension–that could be causing or exacerbated by tension in the jaw. Read on.

Bedtime Jaw Squeeze

If you wake up with soreness in your jaw and teeth, try this simple sqeeze before going to sleep. Sit up straight, relax your shoulders and arms, and take a nice deep breath. Now gently press your palms on the sides of your face by your jaw. Clench your teeth and you can feel a muscle bulge; that’s where you want to place your palms. Relax your jaw–try the Tongue to Roof of Mouth explained above–and hold you palms firmly but comfortably on your jaws while you take five deep breaths, in and out. Release your hands, relax your shoulders, and take five more deep breaths. Repeat the squeeze and relaxing two more times.

(Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, or chronic pain, may contribute to sleep problems. Please seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.)

You may wonder why I’m talking about paints in this blog, but since it’s dedicated to Everyday Wellness, and healthy and sustainable living, I think you’ll find this post is on-topic. Read on!

“Your breath is your friend.”

My clients and students hear this from me…often. I encourage them to pay attention to their breath, and make the intention of taking deep breaths as they practice self-acupressure or spend a few minutes to do an acupressure mini-meditation.

However, if the air you’re breathing is unhealthy, your breath is not your friend. That’s what I found a few days ago while helping my parents repaint their small apartment. A few hours after painting the ceiling, the paint smell started to get to me and I was starting to feel bad; I was worried about not being able to sleep in the apartment. Because the apartment is high up and it was windy, it wasn’t an option to sleep with the window open. We worked out that I could sleep in the bedroom that hadn’t been painted; fortunately, I felt fine in the morning.

The good news is that the day before, I also had the first-hand experience of a healthier paint option: a low odor, low VOC paint. GreenHomeGuide.com explains why this is healthier:

Levels of many common organic pollutants are two to five times higher indoors than they are outside, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Most of these pollutants are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from paints, finishes, and other materials. VOCs can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; nausea; and perhaps even cancer. Given all that, it makes sense to limit exposure by choosing low- or no-VOC paints—especially in the bedroom, where we spend about one-third of each day.

So, the day before we painted the ceiling with “regular” paint, we used Benjamin Moore’s Eco Spec low odor, low VOC paint for the walls. I’m a novice painter, so I can’t compare to other paints, but it was easy to apply two coats with a roller. The color was Simply White. (Unfortunately, the Eco Spec paint we wanted for the ceiling wasn’t available.)

That day and night, I barely noticed any odor and felt no discomfort, and slept in the room that had been painted. It really felt like a “healthy” option, especially for such a small space.

Here’s to beautiful living spaces that are also healthy, long-term.

A month ago, I talked with a man in my building who complained about many months of feeling poorly. A couple of hours after eating, he would get a stomache and then a headache. It didn’t matter what he ate. This would always happen.

I was not surprised to hear that he got both a stomache AND a headache, because in Traditional Chinese Medicine, issues with digestion and headaches are connected. I told this man that I practice acupressure and showed him the HOKU acupressure point, which is on the Large Intestine meridian. He said he felt immediately relaxation and a decrease in his headache.

Yesterday, I ran into him again and he looked great. Apparently a Chinese herbalist had turned him onto Po Chai Pills, which I just researched and learned is an herbal blend in small pill size that address symptoms of indigestion, diarrhea, vomiting… While my neighbor’s pills were the “original” brand from Hong Kong, it seems that po chai pill may be a generally used name for herbal supplement remedies for stomachaches.

His stomachache swent away, and so did his headaches. He carries a vial of Po Chai in his shirt pocket.

So, next time you have a headache, pay attention and see if your stomach is upset. Did you eat something unusual? Or does a regular headache correlate to a regular digestive discomfort?

I’m not trained in herbs, so I encourage you to check with a trained practitioner, if you are considering adding them to your own Healthy Intentions Toolkit.

Warning: Do not use this point on pregnant women.


Name: Hoku or Joining of the Valleys (Large Intestine 4)LI4 point

Location: On the top of the hand, on the web where the thumb and the index finger meet. (See the red dot on the hand in the photo.)LI4 demo1
To hold: Squeeze the point by putting your thumb on the point, and your index finger on the palm side of your hand. Make small circular motions with your thumb until you feel the point; it is tender on many people.LI4 demo2Make sure that the hand that is holding the point is relaxed. The demo photo above shows you how to hold the point, but the hands are a little tense; the second photo, on the right, shows you the hands relaxed, which is how you want to do it.

Hold for 10 or 15 seconds initially, until you figure out what works for you. You can hold for a few minutes, but make sure that the holding hand does not get tense or tired out. Release gently if you feel any acute pain.

This is a wonderful point. It is effective for relieving so many discomforts, including headaches, constipation, insomnia, stress, shoulder and neck tension.

You are encouraged you to seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.