Monthly Archives: January 2014

I Can’t STAND to Stand!

Brian TrabulsiBrian Trabulsi, MPT, ATC is a physical therapist at Rex Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation in Raleigh.

I frequently come across patients with low back pain whose biggest challenge is standing in place. They can walk for an hour but really struggle to stand for just a couple of minutes. This makes standing in line to check out of a store or washing dishes particularly challenging. So, one of the best tips I’ve learned over the years to help patients is to harness their inner ballerina.


By placing the back heel of one foot against the instep of your other foot (Third position in ballet) it forces your gluteus muscles to contract. The contraction helps take some of the compression off the lumbar facet joints and lessen the strain of the low back muscles. Standing for an extended amount of time at a cocktail party, you can subtly switch back and forth between right and left.

If you think it sounds crazy, try it. Stand with your feet shoulder width as you normally would. Now move the back heel of one foot into the instep of the other making sure they touch. I promise you’ll notice a little “lift” in the low back as the gluteus muscles activate.

So, give it a try the next time you’re stuck in line at Harris Teeter while the shopper in front of you goes through an endless collection of coupons. Just don’t curtsy after you checkout.

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Before you lose the baby weight

Jeanie StaskoJeanie Stasko is a Health Educator for Rex Wellness Centers who blogs about fitness, exercise & overall healthy lifestyle topics. This summer, Jeanie wrote about Exercise for Moms-to-Be. Now she fills us in on how to take care of yourself after giving birth.

010714_babyEveryone wants to know how to quickly lose their baby weight. In my opinion, there is just an unnecessary pressure on moms to regain their pre-pregnancy shape immediately after birth. I’d like to slow down a bit and talk about a few things to focus on the first couple months that will help set you up for baby weight loss success in the future.

First, forget about losing the baby weight for the first six weeks. Forget. About. It. Yep, here’s a six week pass. Don’t weigh yourself, don’t even think about it. Your body is going through a tremendous amount of recovery and the focus should be on your baby and resting as much as possible.


Pay attention to your posture to help your body re-adjust post-birth.

As your belly expanded, your hips probably shifted forward as your shoulders shifted back to maintain your balance. It was okay when you were expecting, but now that your bundle has arrived it’s time to fix your posture! Bring your hips back underneath your shoulders and pull in your abdominal muscles to help support your back.

As you are caring for your baby your upper body assumes a very rounded posture. Cuddling and changing diapers and breastfeeding all round your head, neck, and shoulders forward. To save yourself from some aches and pains later, make yourself aware of your upper body when you aren’t caring for baby and focus on bringing them back into alignment.

080713_breastfeeding1Breastfeed your baby/babies if at all possible! I’ll skip talking about the immense benefits for your baby and focus on one of the perks for mom. Breastfeeding can burn a serious number of calories. Your body requires approximately 20 calories to produce an ounce of milk. If your baby eats 20-30 ounces a day, that’s anywhere between 400-600 calories (keep in mind a pound is about 3,500 calories). Plus, it’s designated time to sit down and relax with your precious little one (and it will get you out of doing the dinner dishes!).

051313_foodinfridgeStock your fridge and pantry with healthy foods. Bringing a baby home is a very busy time. Add in a bit of sleep deprivation and you’re really doing yourself a disservice if you eat a crummy diet on top of it. Enlist the help of family and friends to bring you prepared meals or run to the grocery store. Don’t feel bad when asking for assistance. Your baby won’t be a baby forever and soon you’ll be paying it forward.

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Are you sleeping in the right position?

Did you know you could actually improve your health while you sleep? It’s true. Your sleep position—whether you’re a side, back or stomach sleeper—not only affects the quality of your sleep, it also can help alleviate or aggravate certain conditions, like sleep apnea, acid reflux and more.

Wake up on the right side of the bed

While there’s no “right” way to sleep, sleeping on your stomach generally isn’t recommended because of the position’s effects on your neck and back. If you find it hard to sleep in another position, though, place a pillow under your pelvis to help reduce strain. Avoid putting your neck at an awkward angle by using a very soft pillow under your head or sleeping sans pillow.

Restore, don’t snore


If you snore or have obstructive sleep apnea, back sleeping may worsen the problem, so opt for your side instead. In fact, experts from the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Sleep Medicine say about 10 percent of sleep apnea sufferers may be cured simply by changing sleep positions. If you’re not able to change position, using a wedge pillow to elevate your head may help. Need more motivation to side sleep? Doing so can also help relieve acid reflux (heartburn), insomnia and chronic sleep deprivation.

Avoiding back, shoulder and neck pain

010214_sleep1Pillows can help lessen back pain in most positions. If you sleep on your back, a pillow under the knees or a rolled towel under the small of your back helps maintain the body’s natural curve. If you’re a side sleeper, a pillow between your knees can provide extra support while helping hip and knee issues, too. If you have spinal stenosis (pinched nerves in the lower back), bending your knees may also help ease discomfort.

For side sleepers with shoulder pain, avoid sleeping on the affected side. Instead, sleep on the opposite side and hug a pillow. Or, sleep on your back with a small pillow beneath the injured shoulder. For neck pain, use a pillow that fills the space between your neck and shoulders, positioned above the shoulders.

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Kick off the new year with a healthy appetizer

As the holiday season of big feasts, hearty portions and sweet treats winds down, you may be ready to tackle that “eat healthier” resolution. But wait! There’s a New Year’s party and, then, the Super Bowl. You may even roll out the red carpet for an Academy Awards party.

010214_turkey2Although a festive gathering isn’t complete without food, you don’t have to resort to unhealthy options like chips and cookies from the store. Whether hosting your own soiree or supplying a dish at a friend’s place, providing healthy options can be easy. If you prefer to grab and go, veggies with dip or a fruit plate can be a refreshing snack after heavy holiday items.

If a slower pace after the holidays has given you more time on your hands, you may want to get more creative and make something. Try this quick and healthy appetizer recipe that tastes good, and is good for you!

Turkey pinwheel appetizers


  • 1 package cream cheese, low fat (8 ounce, garlic and herb)
  • 6 flour tortillas (8 inch)
  • 6 slices turkey
  • 3 Roma tomatoes (small, chopped)
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves (fresh)


  • Place tortillas on microwaveable plate or paper towel; microwave uncovered on high for 10–15 seconds to soften.
  • Spread about 2 tablespoons cream cheese over each tortilla.
  • Top with a slice of turkey, chopped tomatoes and spinach.
  • Roll up lightly; then wrap in plastic wrap.
  • Refrigerate 2-3 hours to blend flavors.
  • Cut each roll into eight 1-inch slices. Arrange with cut side down on serving plate.

Makes 16 servings. Per serving (3 pinwheels): 100 calories, 4g total fat, 15mg cholesterol, 340mg sodium, 13g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 3g sugar, 4g protein.

Recipes courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Finding the Right Yoga

No doubt you’ve heard all the benefits of yoga: improved fitness, lower blood pressure, reduced stress and more. But with so many different types on your gym’s class schedule, it may be difficult to determine which style meets your needs. Here’s a breakdown of six common types.


First things first
What exactly does yoga entail, you might ask? During a typical 45 to 90 minute session, an instructor will guide you through a series of yoga postures (asanas) designed to stretch and tone all areas of the body, and end with relaxation or meditation. Throughout the class, the instructor will help you with breath control and proper body alignment.

Types of yoga
There are many styles of yoga, and many overlap. Hatha yoga is the most common form in the United States. It’s a general term that encompasses several styles of yoga that include both breathing and physical exercises or postures:

  1.  010214_yoga1Ashtanga (also called power yoga): During this fast-paced, demanding workout, you’ll constantly move from one posture to another.
  2. Bikram (hot yoga): Performed in a room heated to 95 to 100 degrees, this style includes a series of 26 postures that aim to warm and stretch the muscles, ligaments and tendons and encourage sweating.
  3. Integral: This gentle style of yoga includes breathing exercises and chanting or repetition of a mantra. Classes may also incorporate guided relaxation and silent meditation.
  4. 010214_yoga2 Iyengar: Focusing on detail and precise alignment, this style is characterized by holding poses for long periods of time as well as the use of props like belts, blocks or chairs.
  5. Kundalini: To move energy from the lower body upward, this form emphasizes the use of breath during postures as well as chanting and mantras.
  6.  Viniyoga: Adapting postures to individual needs and abilities, viniyoga encourages synchronization of breath and postures.
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