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I can’t say enough about how useful tennis balls are for dealing with shoulder pain.  (Watch the video here.)And I’ve recently become a convert to tennis balls to help with sore feet, especially as people ask about dealing with foot soreness, ankle pain and issues like Plantar faciaitis.

Just as you would use a tennis ball (or two) to relieve tension in the upper back/shoulders, you can do the same with the feet.

  • Take a used tennis ball, and put it in a sock.  You can use the tennis ball alone, but I think the sock helps keep the ball from rolling around.
  • Before starting, stand in your socks or bare feet on a flat surface, and check in with how your feet feel.  Notice any discomfort.
  • Sit down in a chair that allows you to sit straight, with both feet on the floor.
  • Start by rolling the tennis ball under that foot that is bothering you (or bothering you more).  Roll the ball slowly–ball of foot, arch and heel areas– , and notice if there are any places where it feels especially good, and stop at those points for a few deep breaths.  If you feel any pain, stop.
  • If you think your foot can bear more pressure, take your foot off the ball, and stand up.  Roll the ball under your foot again; this time put as much weight on the ball as feels like a good massage.  Take a few deep breaths as you bear your weight on the ball.  Touch a wall or furniture if you need for balance.  If you feel any pain, stop.
  • Take your foot off the ball, and once again stand with both feet on the floor.  Notice how you feet feel, compared to before, and compared to each other.  The foot you just massaged with the ball should feel flatter on the floor.
  • Sit back down and do the same with your other foot.  Even if you don’t have discomfort in that foot, or think it needs a massage, spend at least a minute to roll the ball under it.  Following the principle of yin/yang, it’s always a good idea to give attention to the other side.  You’ll likely feel that the other foot feels flatter on the floor, too.

If you’re at home and have the time, you can follow up by giving both feet a massage with your hands.

If you want to get the benefit of this at work, take a tennis ball and roll it under your feet while you work.  You can do it while you’re working, or dedicate a few minutes to the above exercise.  Your feet, the rest of you body, and your mind will thank you for the brief but effective break.

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

A few days ago, I talked with a mother of a 7-year-old boy who has experienced a great deal of anxiety in situations that are new: places, people, scenarios.

This mom told me that what has really helped him cope better is the simple — yet not always easy — act of deep breathing.  She was shocked to learn that indeed, her son didn’t know how to breathe deeply.  His breath was extremely shallow.

Here is how she has helped him to learn to breathe more deeply.

  • He lies down, and she places a book on his tummy — right on top of the bellybutton is a good marker.
  • He is encouraged to take a breath that’s deep enough (to fills the belly) and make the book go up.
  • This mom also used her hand, instead of a book. She placed her hand firmly on her son’s tummy so that he felt the resistance and could breath into her hand.  This is probably a great step to take when deep breathing is difficult to attain at first.

The new school year has started, and this deep breathing has helped a 7-year-old make that transition with greater comfort.

How could it help you or a child or adult you know?  You can do this yourself, either lying down, or sitting up or standing, with your hand on your belly.

I’ve spent the last few days in a hospital, while a family-member had surgery and has been recovering.  This is a relatively new hospital, so it looks more like a nice hotel with its grand entry, “concierge-like” welcome desks, and comfortable furniture.  (They also have a great Au Bon Pain that is open 24 hours!)

Healthy tools available at the bottom of the kiosks: Face Masks, Facial Tissues and Alcohol Handy Wipes

One of the first things I noticed in the waiting areas were the Keep Everyone Healthy kiosks (pictured at right.)  These reminded me of an article I read a while back (Selling Soap) about how the risk of catching an infection IN a hospital is quite high, and that’s because the hospital staff doesn’t wash its hands enough.  The article talked about Cedars-Sinai Hospital in LA that had a successful campaign to encourage hospital staff to wash their hands more. 

I wondered whether these Keep Everyone Healthy kiosks were part of a larger push at the hospital to include everyone in the community.  Certainly, I have been a part of the hospital community for the better part of the past week, and I appreciated having the tissues there in the waiting room.  I saw some other folks go over and pick up a wipe or a tissue, too.  Though I have yet to see any face mask takers.

I have no doubt that seeing the kiosks in the waiting area has influenced my thinking about the importance of sanitation within other parts of the hospital; namely the rooms where patients are recovering.  There are signs all over the place that emphasize the importance of wearing gloves and washing hands before and after patient contact. 

I haven’t been keeping an eagle eye on the staff, but I can say that norm is for doctors/nurses/technicians to either put on new gloves, wash their hands or use a sanitizing gel when they walk in the room, and throw out the gloves or wash their hands on the way out.  It helps that each private room has a washing sink in the entry area, gloves are provided in three sizes, and there’s one sanitizing gel inside the door and another outside the door.

They have made it Simple and Easy to do this simple but effective community health safety step.  In my short tenure at the hospital, it’s become a habit!

So taking this out of the hospital, I’d like to think about what steps I can take to make hand-hygiene more of a routine for me, whether I’m at home or outside.  Some things come to mind:

  • Make an effort to wash my hands before each meal–especially when I’m eating out–and after I’ve used public transport or have shaken a lot of hands.  Also, after I get home from a day out. Do this enough, and it becomes a habit.
  • Increase this if I think I am getting sick, or have a cold.
  • Carry something like Purell hand sanitizer in my bag, as a backup.

Here’s a post from earlier about hand-washing, including a tip on how to know you’re washing long enough.

I realize that quitting a long-term smoking habit can be a huge endeavor.  Once in a while I’ll meet someone who quit cold turkey, but that is likely an exception to the rule.

The thing about any habit is that it’s familiar and comfortable, so letting go of it is a difficult thing to do.

Therefore, the LETTING GO point is a wonderful point to hold, if you are thinking about or working on quitting smoking.  It’s a great point to use on a friend of relative who is going through this, too.  Fittingly, it’s the first point on the Lung meridian, so while it’s really helpful for letting go in many areas of life, it’s so appropriate for letting go of something that pertains to the Lungs. 

To learn more about this point, see this post.

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.

We all know that exercise helps, but according to a short article titled You Name It, and Exercise Helps It in the New York Times, “People with chronic health problems can improve their health and quality of life by learning how to exercise safely.”

“The data show that regular moderate exercise increases your ability to battle the effects of disease,” Dr. Moffat said in an interview. “It has a positive effect on both physical and mental well-being. The goal is to do as much physical activity as your body lets you do, and rest when you need to rest.”

The reality of life is that we’re busy and that squeezing in exercise can be a challenge at times.  I like to walk, and because I live in a city, there are many places I can walk easily.  Therefore, I like to integrate errands with walking briskly.  I finish an errand, get some exercise, and keep my car off the road.  Productivity and goodness for my health as well as the environment.  Win-win-win.

With that thought, I’ll pack up to walk to the post office now.

I just made two cross-country flights to visit my friend, and unfortunately came down with cough and fever during my visit.  I suspect I had already caught whatever it was before I stepped on the plane.

Anyway, I’ve written before about the important of good hydration during airplane flights.

But this time, in addition to drinking lots of water, I did an experiment in steaming myself, because my throat and upper respiratory/chest area was hurting. 

I did this before I got on the plane.  I boiled a pot of water and put it on the kitchen table, then carefully leaned over it with a towel over my head–to create a little steam room–and inhaled the soothing steam.

Be careful that the water is not too hot!  And of course, always supervise if kids are doing this or if you kids around.  

And then on the plane, I asked for a cup of hot water–which they were happy to give me–and I cupped my hand around it to create a tiny sauna between the cup and my face, and breathed in the steam.  Of course the water was not as hot as direct-from the kettle, and it cooled pretty quickly, but in the context of the desert-dry airplane air, it felt great.

According to the NYTimes (An Enduring Measure of Fitness: The Simple Push-Up):

“Based on national averages, a 40-year-old woman should be able to do 16 push-ups and a man the same age should be able to do 27. By the age of 60, those numbers drop to 17 for men and 6 for women. Those numbers are just slightly less than what is required of Army soldiers who are subjected to regular push-up tests. “

It’s hard for me to believe that the numbers are so high, considering the numbers of Americans who are overweight.  But maybe I’m on the super-weak end when it comes to push-ups.

It’s only in the last 5 years or so that I’ve had enough upper body and core strength to do anything resembling a full push-up.  This is because of my yoga practice (plank pose and chaturanga dandasana especially).  Because of the benefits of flexibility, as well as strength and alignment, and mind-quieting, I want to do yoga until I am very old.

And now the information in this article gives me more reason to focus on the push-up benefits of yoga, for my long-term health.

“The push-up is the ultimate barometer of fitness. It tests the whole body, engaging muscle groups in the arms, chest, abdomen, hips and legs. It requires the body to be taut like a plank with toes and palms on the floor. The act of lifting and lowering one’s entire weight is taxing even for the very fit.”

“Push-ups are important for older people, too. The ability to do them more than once and with proper form is an important indicator of the capacity to withstand the rigors of aging.”

Reflexology is the art/science of applying pressure to the soles of the feet and palms of the hands. While it is not “officially” part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, in the way that acupuncture and acupressure are, reflexology applies pressure–sometimes light, sometimes heavy–so it feels a lot like acupressure.

And it’s a modality I like to use when I’m working with clients, and also to teach students in classes.

I sometimes get asked about those reflexology massage sandals. Some of them are made of wood with little pegs or beads for the “points”, and drawings of the mapping. See this example, which is an actual board. I received a similar one as a gift. It’s good as a reference, but is VERY painful to stand on. Plus the foot size it too big for me.

acu sandal

However, I have found some plastic sandals with little nubs that stimulate the entire sole of my foot. I love these sandals. I notice I breathe deeply when I put them on, and my feet feel great. I must admit the first few times I put them on, they were VERY uncomfortable after even just 10 minutes. It takes a bit of time to break them in.

The pair I got only cost about $15 at a local shop (Soko Hardware in Japantown, 1698 Post St., SF, 415 931-5510), but I was told that they are so popular they are difficult to get. Here they are online.

I found Okabashi, a company that seems to sell a whole line of sandals based on this concept; I don’t know them, but want to offer as a resource, too. If you have used Okabashi sandals, please post a comment to share your experience with them.