Category Archives: Exercise and posture

Hip Pocket Sciatica

Otherwise known as pseudo sciatica, hip pocket sciatica is usually brought about by carrying around and sitting on an object (usually a wallet) in your back pocket. Even a very thin wallet will have this effect because it is the equivalent of sitting on a chair with a bump on one side.

Men are the chief culprits of this, hip pocket sciatica can cause pain and tingling in the buttock area and cause pain to radiate to your lower back. The hard lump you sit on interferes with the blood circulation to the gluteal muscles and it tips your pelvis up on that side. This can have a kinking affect on the lower lumbar discs which in turn can be a contributing factor to the “real” sciatica that radiates down your leg from your lower back.

The prevention is simple- take your wallet (or other objects) from your back pocket before you sit down. It is even better to find another pocket to carry it in because then it won’t matter if you forget to remove it when you sit.

It is surprising how much better this simple act can make your hips and back feel, if you are reading this and thinking “I always have my wallet in my back pocket and I feel fine” take it out for a few days and see if you feel any different.

Hip pocket sciatica is also called pseudo sciatica because it feels like sciatica but it isn’t. Sciatica can make your buttock sore through pain referring along the sciatic nerve from lumbar nerve root pressure in you lower back, sciatica is an indirect cause of hip or buttock pain. Pseudo (or hip pocket) sciatica on the other hand is a direct cause of hip and buttock pain because of direct pressure from what you are sitting on.

The very act of sitting unevenly like when you cross your legs also creates uneven weight distribution on the buttock muscles and can have a pseudo-sciatica  like effect. You may get away with sitting cross-legged or on your wallet for a long time before it effects you and this is why that sitting in such a way may not be considered by yourself to be the cause of that searing pain in your butt.

Poor quality seating should be on the list of suspects for hip-pocket sciatica and lower back pain along with any objects that you my habitually carry in your back pocket. Some of us have sitting habits such as tucking a leg under your butt when sitting or maybe leaning towards one side, it is easy to do when you have been on the computer for a long time.

Hip-pocket sciatica is aptly named for more than one reason because it will end up costing you money to get it fixed.


Constipation is one of the most common digestive complaints and it has many causes. Insufficient dietry fibre (roughage), dehydration, drug side effects, pregnancy, stress, not enough exercise and back pain are all major contributors to constipation.

To properly understand the importance of regular bowel movements it is important to consider what your bowel is supposed to do which is getting rid of the worst of what your body contains.

It is not common for most of us to trade notes about our excrement with one another so what you think as being normal may not be normal at all. I have met people who only pass feces once every three weeks and thought everybody else  did too. For the average person once or twice a day is a good regularity and the stool should have the consistency of soft clay.

People who do not eat enough fruit and vegetables run a high risk of constipation and get a lazy colon if this eating habit continues for a long period of time. When your colon becomes flaccid constipation is not the only, nor the worst thing that can happen to you. Diverticular disease can be a very distressing condition to suffer from and it can shorten your life, it is more likely to happen to you if you suffer from chronic constipation.

For many constipation sufferers their stool will be dry and hard, if there is not enough water entering your body it may be part of the cause. Lower back pain sufferers often find that when they get acute pain, bearing down can be painful and they might hold back because of it. If you take pain killers that have opiates (codeine, morphine) in them these will slow your bowel down too. Heroin addicts can have a devil of a time with constipation.

When you move about alot your internal organs tend to rub against each other and massage one another and this helps your digestion. If you are usually sedentary and worse still if you sit in a hunched position  your entrails get cramped for room. Inactivity does not help your blood circulate throughout your body and this includes circulation to your  intestines.

If you are a big drinker of fruit and vegetable juices but do not eat fruit and vegies you get vitamins but no roughage. Whole fruit and vegetables are a much healthier option than their juices alone.

Constipation (along with child birth, heavy lifting and anal sex) can give your hemorroids, this happens because of straining too hard. Learning to use your abdominal muscles in a downward wave-like motion like belly dancers do will put way less strain on your rectum if you need to do some pushing. Getting therapuetic massage can help alot too especially if your massage therapist shows you how you can do it for yourself.

Laxatives can assist constipation but taking them long term can cause problems with over excitation of the bowel wall. Prevention can be way less drastic than cure.

Exercise balls

Since the 1960’s large inflatible balls have become an increasingly common object in gymnasiums in many lands around the world. Starting in Switzerland they have been known as Swiss Balls, Fit Balls, Gym Balls, Sweda Balls etc.

The first time I really took notice of what they could do was several years ago when a former co-worker who had long suffered lower back pain, was at her desk sitting with perfect posture. I had never seen her sit this way before, she had always been such a bad sloucher in all the time I knew her. When I complimented her on her improved posture she told me that she bought a Swiss ball and used it whenever she could.

What surprised me most was that my co-worker was not a good exerciser and didn’t seek much remedial treatment considering how much her back seemed to bother her and yet the Swiss ball seemed to be just what she needed. Most of her back pain was gone and she looked better too, the way everybody does when they have a good posture.

Exercise balls tend to range in size between 55 and 90 centimetres, the taller you are the bigger the ball you need. The deepest muscles in your body that hold you upright are your core muscles (these include your psoas, erector spinae and rectus abdominus) and these are the muscles Swiss balls work best on.

Part of the reason why these large inflatible balls work so well is that they are always making you move or sit or lie on them in a balanced way, if you didn’t you would fall off. They are comfortable too if you can’t kneel down and reach the floor.

There are not a huge range of different exercises to do on Swiss balls but once you get used to them,you will find that making slight variations to your posture will improve your all round balance and strength.

Swiss balls can be useful aids to doing stretching exercise too but even if you only want to use them as a chair, regularly and in the right way they should help your back and straighten you up.

Exercise balls are not a bad way to start getting fit again for men or for women and they hurt alot less than dumbells do if you drop them. If you already are ripped give them a try anyway, see how many of your favourite exercises you can do on them particularly for bench-work.

Another advantage that large exercise balls have is that if you need to put it away for a while you just let the air out and fold it into a neat, flat easy to store bundle. You will find a number of Swiss ball exercises in Self Massage that will assist you with your balance as well as your flexibility.

Diet, Eating and TCM

There are numerous types of diet aimed at weight control and better digestive function but how and when we actually eat matters too. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), not only is the nutritional content in our food important but so too is eating in a peaceful setting, away from the work station and not thinking about anything that upsets us. In TCM it is thought that whatever we are thinking when we eat is swallowed with our food, that our digestive organs are more open and sensitive to emotional upset when we eat.

There are good physiological reasons why eating on the run is not good for us too. When we ingest food our digestive organs spring into action and need more of our circulating blood to power the digestive process, if we insist on being physically and/or mentally active while we eat, our muscles and brain actively compete with our bellies for more of our precious blood flow.

This is easy to prove to oneself, try eating identical meals in two different scenarios at the same time of day, what feels better between eating in peace and quiet with no distractions or answering the phone between mouthfuls as you hurriedly walk back from the take-away? Is it possible to enjoy what you eat when you are just “filling the hole” ? Do you think you might be more susceptible to indigestion eating this way? Is it really hygeinic dropping crumbs all over your work station? Recent health studies have shown that your PC keyboard has more germs on it than toilet seats do.

The failure to chew enough before swallowing makes it harder for food to be broken down by our digestive organs, poor posture crams our stomachs for space and insufficient exercise can make us more prone to constipation- there are many factors that effect our digestion. In TCM eating late at night is not considered ideal and meals are considered best when they all contain the “5 flavours” sour, sweet, spicy, salty and bitter.

We all need the same nutrients but a person with Crohn’s disease has to avoid gluten, the lactose intolerant need to avoid dairy, if you have haemachromatosis you should go lightly with your iron intake and most of us never drink enough water. Learning about our own idiosyncrasies is helpful if we want to live long and happy lives. If you do want to take suppliments it is better to get an expert opinion rather than self-diagnose and choose products that are properly absorbed in your alimentary tract, portaloo contractors often find piles of undigested tablets in the bottom of their tanks that have passed straight through their users.

One frequent area of disagreement between medical practitioners and natural doctors is the necessity of vitamin and mineral suppliments, doctors often say that suppliments are unnecessary because there are plenty of them in our food already but naturopaths may recognize their patient’s symptoms to signs of mineral and vitamin deficiency. They may both be right if the patient’s digestive tract just isn’t extracting what it should from the food they eat.

Keep an honest record of what you eat for a while and compare it to what nutritionists recommend and see what you come up with.


Blood circulation and your legs

The circulation of blood (and lymph) around the body is of paramount importance to your health, it is the transportation system that moves nutrients and hormones to the cells and waste products away from them. Many things adversely effect your circulation- dehyration, diabetes, smoking, lack of exercise, poor posture and sedentary occupations are just a few of them.

When people get circulatory problems they most often first notice them in their extremities, particularly in the feet and lower legs because it is all uphill for the blood and lymph in your legs to make it back up to your heart to be re-circulated.

When the circulation in your legs get weak your feet feel colder, the skin starts to lose it’s healthy pink colour, foot wounds take longer to heal, the skin becomes more easily damaged, your ankles get puffy and  you are more likely to experience numbness and tingling. In extreme cases you can get gangrene too.

Perhaps more than any other single reason for getting poor circulation in your feet is getting old, take a look around on a warm day when people are wearing sandals and going bare foot and ask yourself how many older people have feet that appear as described above.

There is no magic bullet that can miraculously restore the circulation in your feet and lower leg to it’s former pristine condition but if you do following regularly you can help yourself alot.

* Walk for atleast 20 minutes every day.

* Don’t smoke.

* Keep your intake of sugar (and foods containing it) low.

* Get your calves and feet massaged (or Self Massage) often.

* Avoid sitting for more than an hour at a time.

* Do foot pumping and toe wiggling exercises while you are sitting (like the cabin crew tell you to on flights).

* Stretch your calves often.

* Wear good shoes.

* Consider the potential benefits of using orthotics in your shoes.

*Elevate your feet when you are sitting if they get puffy.

It is a shame when people wait until it is too late to look after the circulation in their legs and feet, losing mobility is serious business. You might be surprised how much better you feel for it if you start doing something about it today.

Think about how hard your feet work and the conditions they do it under, they deserve to have a regular rub. Too often people give up on exercise and the legs suffer as a consequence. The exercise you did when you were younger probably won’t suit your needs now so find ones that do, for your fitness and those lovely exercise feel-good hormones.

If you combine Self Massage and exercise your leg circulation will be even  better.