Treating Arthritis

Arthritis is a very common cause of joint pain, usually caused by worn cartilage that no longer keeps enough of a cushion between the bones of the joint. This in turn causes pain, inflammation, and stiffness. Treatment for arthritis either supports the health of the joint and/or helps to manage the pain.

At Ha.Lé, we have a variety of effective treatments for arthritis pain. Our first recommendation is to come to class. Physical movement in general helps to relieve stiffness and improve circulation. Yoga classes also help realign the joint and strengthen the muscles around it, which can reduce the amount of pressure that contributes to the pain. MELT Method classes focus on hydration of tissues, and dry tissues in the joint can be a big contributing factor for discomfort. By using MELT techniques, those dry tissues can rehydrate, reducing inflammation and providing more cushion between the bones. Finally, Somatics and Feldenkrais classes can help the body learn to move more effortlessly, taking some of the strain off of painful joints and restoring a sense of vitality.

In addition to classes, we recommend bodywork and acupuncture. Bodywork is able to address multiple layers of tissue around the affected joints, easing strain and restoring blood and nutrient flow to the tissues. By addressing issues with muscle tension and adhered fascia, the joint is freed to move more easily, releasing pressure from spaces that don’t have enough cushioning and making movement more sustainable and less painful.

Acupuncture is also helpful for arthritis. It works to regulate pain signals in general, turning down the volume on the body’s alarms. This is especially helpful when pain has become chronic, which means that the pain signals can begin to build on each other, sending louder and louder alarms. Acupuncture is able to help reset this response. It also helps to reduce the inflammation in the joints themselves, which eases discomfort.

Arthritis pain is common and treatable. There are many ways to address the discomfort and reduce the impact of arthritis on daily life, through movement classes, bodywork, and acupuncture. All of these approaches are very safe with few side effects, and have the added effect of increasing your sense of vitality and general well-being.

Restorative Yoga

Restorative Yoga is about relaxing into each pose, allowing the earth to hold you completely. Using props like blankets, bolsters, and blocks, the body is fully supported so that you can release layer after layer of tension. This resets the nervous system toward rest and digest mode, which creates space for healing and thriving.

Restorative yoga is also a form of mindfulness practice. It invites the mind to become more and more aware of where the body is holding tension. This helps to connect the body with mind, and uses neuroplasticity to cultivate stronger paths to relaxation in the nervous system. As we bring awareness to tension and then release it, we create ease and find room to change the habits of unnecessary tension that we hold in our daily lives.

Conscious relaxation creates a cascade of health benefits in the body. Heart rate slows, breathing deepens, and blood pressure lowers. Tension begins to drain out of the diaphragm, the pelvis, and the neck and shoulders. Muscles relax, allowing nutrients, oxygen, and blood to nourish and repair the tissue. As tension releases along the spine, vertebra make subtle adjustments toward alignment. The nervous system begins to turn down the volume on pain signals and various complex systems of the body better regulate themselves, like the digestive system, circulatory system, and sleep patterns.

In many ways, gentle is the new advanced. Restorative yoga is a gentle, subtle practice that creates profound results. Using the pull of gravity instead of muscular effort, it speaks to the healing processes of the body in a different, and very effective, way. It may be gentle, but it is not always easy to cultivate mindful relaxation.

Mindful Yoga is a Treatment for the Whole Self

Yoga, at its heart, is therapeutic. It is an ancient system of connecting the mind and body so that they move together and support health and vitality. Though it is popular to use yoga as a means to fitness goals, that is a narrow interpretation of a comprehensive system of health and treatment.

Yoga is a form of mindfulness practice, cultivating awareness from within the body. By bringing attention to the breath and alignment, it trains and conditions the mind. This has been shown to help improve cognitive function, boost memory, and reduce baseline stress levels.

In many ways, gentle yoga is the most advanced yoga. Without fast pacing or high physical challenge to occupy the mind, your attention is able to turn to the wealth of information percolating up from within the body: the exact angle of knee bend that begins to make an old injury ache; a perpetual knot in your shoulders that brings certain memories to the surface; the joy that comes from releasing tension in the low back. By tuning in to this body wisdom, we are able to better engage with our health and support ourselves.

Slower, more deliberate yoga is therefore able to treat imbalances and address discomfort, often before they become a bigger issue. It supports flexibility, lubricates joints, develops strength, increases balance, and reduces mental, emotional, and physical stress levels. Also, because it does use slower and gentler poses, it is accessible to a wider range of practitioners. Do not mistake it for easy, but know that it creates space for a wide range of bodies, ages, and levels of experience.

At Ha.Lé, our yoga classes are based in mindfulness practice. They are designed as treatments to support health and to continue the care we offer in our appointments. Therapeutic yoga is an effective way to support the whole self, bringing body and mind together to create health.

Go for a Walk

Our bodies are made to move, and specifically, to walk. We are fundamentally designed to use our feet to move from one place to another. This means that, on a biological level, walking activates important physical processes and balances our bodies in important and sometimes profound ways.

The power of walking comes through the movement. Our circulation increases, which allows our tissues to be nourished by more blood and oxygen. This nourishment allows them to repair and heal minor stresses, often before we notice them. Walking also allows us to enter into a naturally rhythmic state, which helps our minds shift into light meditation and stress reduction mode with ease.

The motion of putting one foot in front of the other coordinates complex interactions between muscles, bones, and connective tissues. It is an ongoing conversation that keeps each part healthy and connected to the whole. Increasing regular walks allows the body to adjust muscles and movements back toward healthy alignment and engagement, correcting some gait issues caused by too much sitting and not enough moving.

The corrective power of walking is well documented. Studies have shown that walking eases joint pain and arthritis by lubricating the joints and strengthening the muscles that support them. It also boosts immune function, reducing sick days by 43%. It can improve posture by reestablishing natural movement patterns, and it provides all the benefits of weight-bearing exercise. Because walking requires your body to stand upright against gravity, it increases bone density and muscle tone.  

Walking is a powerful way to increase whole body health, and is especially effective when you go for walks outdoors. This brings you connection with nature, fresh air, and sunshine, helping to reduce stress levels and relax the body and mind. Walk more to increase your overall sense of well being.

What is Yamuna® Body Rolling?

Yamuna® Body Rolling is a self-care and self-conditioning technique that uses specialized therapy balls to treat specific body parts. It is able to address multiple layers of tissue, including skin, fascia, muscle, and bone, as well as work with connective tissues, internal organs, and the nervous system.

Yamuna routines involve rolling the body on a therapy ball in specific ways. Using a ball and controlled body weight, the entire muscle is stimulated from origin to insertion and all the tendons and tissue in between. As the body rolls, deep breathing brings a relaxation response, allowing tension to release and the weight of the body to sink into the ball.

Using Yamuna therapy balls offers the most complete form of stretching, by directly and evenly stimulating tendons and muscle fibers. Conventional stretching lengthens fibers mainly in one direction only and potentially creates microtears in the muscle. Therapy balls, however, are able to stretch fibers lengthwise, crosswise, and diagonally without the risk of microtears. This supports the overall health of the tissue, increases movement throughout the entire muscle, and allows the body to move more dynamically overall.

Therapy balls are able to access tissues that are not easy to target with conventional stretching, like internal organs, abdominal muscles, hip rotators, and the spine. They can stimulate bone health from all sides, unlike most weight bearing activities that only load bone in one direction. And they are able to safely address joint injuries and increase range of motion without distressing sensitized tissues.

Yamuna Body Rolling is an effective and empowering treatment. By using the unique properties of therapy balls, Yamuna routines are able to give people comprehensive methods to treat their aches, pains, and injuries, and to maintain performance and health.

The Therapeutic Benefits of Balls and Rollers

Therapy balls and rollers offer many of the benefits of bodywork, but with the accessibility of a self-care practice and classes. Bodywork and massage therapy has a long list of benefits for overall health, pain management, athletic performance, and immune function. Sessions are one on one and highly individualized to each client’s body and what will best support their health.

Not everyone is able to receive bodywork or massage as often as their body needs it, though. A reasonable health maintenance schedule for bodywork is once every 2 or 4 weeks, and busy schedules and finances can make that difficult for everyone to access. That’s where the balls and rollers come in! With a grippy texture and firm (but not hard) to the touch, they can support health in many of the same ways bodywork does.

The ball or roller is able to mimic what the therapist does with their hands and feet, using slow, firm pressure to create length and hydration. They can address pressure points, lengthen fascia, relax muscle tension, and rehydrate tissues. Classes can get anyone started with these tools, as a trained teacher leads students through proper techniques and teaches them what to notice. Each student needs to learn the difference between sensations that create health, and pain that does damage.

Coming to class is an important part of dedicating regular self-care time and establishing good practices. Once you have these pieces, you can then begin to integrate balls and rollers into your own self-care practice at home. Self treatments like releasing the IT band after each long run or addressing pressure points on the hands to relax head and neck tension after a day on the computer, can go a long way to maintaining a daily sense of ease and vitality. This also allows classes and bodywork and massage sessions to become more effective as they can spend more time addressing root causes of discomfort.

At Ha.Lé, discovering the therapeutic use of balls and rollers was an Aha! moment for us. We had tried for years to figure out a way for clients to continue their treatments off the massage table. Yoga is a great complement to bodywork, but it does not work with the body in the same way. Adding therapeutic balls and rollers completes the care students receive in movement and yoga classes, and all of our teachers are encouraged to integrate all of our tools into their classes. We wholeheartedly encourage clients to come to class in order to support and maintain the specialized bodywork they receive on the table.

How Often Do You Need Self-Care?

Our bodies require regular care in order to thrive and heal, and one of the best ways to make sure we are on top of our self-care is to put it on our schedule instead of trying to fit it in around everything else. As a health and wellness practice, HaLe’ has experience with what kinds of schedules work best. Here are our recommendations, based on the state of your body:

Acute Pain: 3 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every week

Acute pain is an active, painful flare up or injury. The body needs frequent treatment in order to release secondary tension, stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, support the lymph system, regulate the pain signals, and generally assist the healing process.

Sub-acute: 1-2 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every 2 weeks

Sub-acute pain falls between acute pain (sudden and awful) and chronic pain (long term, constant/consistent pain). It means that something hurts, but it hasn’t been hurting for a very long time and it isn’t terrible. The body is not in crisis but still in need of support and healing, so regular treatment until it resolves is recommended.

Chronic: Start with 2-3 classes/wk and bodywork or acupuncture every 1-2 weeks, then taper down

Chronic pain is long term pain that is not healing or getting better, and can be anywhere on the spectrum from unbearable to really annoying. Addressing chronic pain involves a combination of treatments to reduce overall pain levels and to treat the root cause of the chronic condition. This usually means coming often at the beginning, and as treatment makes progress at interrupting the pain cycle, tapering off gradually until treatments reach a maintenance level.

Maintenance: 1-2 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every 4 weeks

To maintain a level of general good health and low pain, we recommend a basic self-care schedule. This helps resolve issues before they begin to hurt, reduces baseline stress levels, hydrates the connective tissue (fascia), and promotes a general sense of well-being. People who are very active or athletic may need more frequent self-care maintenance.

 

A Note on Mental Health care:

These same protocols can also be applied to mental and emotional health. Psychotherapy sessions for high distress, medium distress, chronic distress, and mental health maintenance often follow the same frequency guidelines as the pain levels, since mental and emotional distress is a form of pain. Coming to classes provides valuable support for regulating mood, reducing the physical symptoms of mental and emotional stress, and releasing emotional energy that is stored in the body. Adding bodywork and/or acupuncture to your treatment plan can treat imbalances that may be contributing to distress and help boost a sense of overall wellbeing.

Crackle and Pop: Knees and other Joints

Our knees and other joints can pop, grind, crunch, and make other interesting sounds. This can be alarming, causing worry about the health of the joint and whether the sounds are a sign of something serious.

What makes those sounds: There are a lot of complex tissues in our joints, and most of them can make some noise. Tiny bubbles can form in the joint fluid due to changes in joint pressure, and they make a sound when they pop. Ligaments and tendons can make a click or pop sound as they move over a bony lump and snap back into place. Cartilage can develop uneven areas as we age, and a grinding or crunching sound can be from those rough surfaces gliding across each other.

When to worry: As long as there is no pain or swelling, these sounds are not a reason to worry. They can come from age, use, or healed injuries, and the noises are not part of the alarm system of your body. Our body uses pain and swelling to indicate that there is a problem, and that is how you know when the joint needs extra attention and treatment. And if you ever experience a sudden pop followed by pain, that is almost always an injury that needs treatment.

Support for Joint Health: There are a few keys to supporting joint health, whether they are just making painless sounds or are causing discomfort. Bodywork and movement classes both help restore alignment so that the right muscles and connective tissues are working together, and to relieve muscle tension that can contribute to joint pain. Hydration of the tissues is also key to keeping joints supple and healthy, which is especially supported by bodywork and therapeutic movement. Acupuncture is also very effective at treating pain and the imbalances that may be causing that pain.

Joints like knees and shoulders that make interesting sounds without pain are not a cause for alarm. They can serve as reminders to stay committed to our self care, but do not indicate serious damage or injury to the joint.

Focus on Feeling Better: Therapeutic Movement

Our bodies are made to move. Deep biological processes in the organs, tissues, and nervous system are based on a foundation of physical movement and activity. This is why therapeutic movement can have such profound health and healing effects; the right kinds of movement can restore function and health at their root.

Therapeutic Movement classes like we offer at HaLé are designed to work for a wide range of bodies, ages, and experience levels. They help create health, reduce stress, and improve your overall sense of wellbeing. On a physical level, they:

  • Increase circulation
  • Increase bone density
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Release tension
  • Reduce pain
  • Increase flexibility
  • Improve balance

In addition to these physical benefits, therapeutic movement also provides significant mental health support. Classes can increase mental clarity, reduce anxiety, and stabilize mood, all through treatment of the central nervous system and lowered levels of stress hormones. By further incorporating mindfulness practice and body awareness into therapeutic movement, the mind-body connection is strengthened, boosting the stress and pain management benefits.

Practicing therapeutic movement is a wonderful way to care for yourself. Coming to class provides the additional benefits of activating mirror neurons and social wiring in the brain to deepen your practice, even as they provide a container of dedicated time for self-care.

One of the keys to feeling better in your body and mind is to incorporate nourishing movement into your routine. If you only do one thing at HaLé, we encourage you to come to class. Come every day, come once a week, come to any and every class that works for your schedule. Make a practice to come as often as you can, since the benefits layer and build over time.

Replenish Your Capacity to Give

Being generous brings joy and improves our overall health. However, our capacity to give can become depleted by stress, high expectations, and reduced feelings of empathy. In other words, we can feel so distressed that it becomes more difficult to connect with the joy of giving.

Being generous is a proven benefit to our health. It activates positive feedback loops in the brain that in turn can increase longevity, improve heart health, and release oxytocin, the happy trust hormone. However, it is not the size of the gift that brings these benefits, but our ability to connect with the people we are giving to, and to feel for ourselves the joy or support that gift brings them.

Our ability to feel that sense of connection and empathy is reduced by stress. Compassion fatigue, which happens when we care about others to the point that our ability to care becomes depleted, often contributes to a loss of empathy. Other causes include personal trauma, high anxiety or depression, and physical pain.

Reducing stress levels through self-care and pain management is an effective way to restore empathy and open-heartedness. Bodywork and acupuncture both help reset the nervous system away from fight or flight stress responses, even as they treat specific dysfunctions or imbalances. Therapeutic movement classes like HaLé Yoga and MELT help release stress that has become stuck in the body, rebalancing and resetting the nervous system. Psychotherapy and counseling help integrate body and mind, creating space for health.

Treating stress through self-care replenishes the body’s resources for connection with others. This allows us to more fully empathize with others, restoring our capacity to give and to experience the joys of generosity. At HaLé we encourage you to both take time for your own self-care, and to give that gift to others who also need a little replenishing.

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