Small Gestures: Simple techniques to manage tension and minor pains on the road

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Road King


By Phyllis Hanlon

Some days you feel as if you are stuck in a pressure cooker. Traffic, deadlines, issues at home that you can’t deal with because you’re on the road. It happens to everyone at some point.

So how do you ease the stress and bring on the calm?

A simple technique known as mudras might help. An ancient practice dating back to ninth century India, mudras integrates hand movements with self-awareness and conscious breathing to reframe thinking, according to Emily Fuller Williams, LMT and author of Mudras: Ancient Gestures to Ease Modern Stress.

To release anxiety, Williams recommends the “calmness” mudra. It can be done in your truck, as long as you aren’t moving. Sit straight and bend the elbows so the forearms are upright, hands at ear level. Rotate the hands back and forth at the wrist (like screwing in a light bulb), keeping your fingers extended. While performing this gesture for three minutes is ideal, some people notice a difference in mood within seconds, she says.

When both hands need to be on the steering wheel, mudras can be challenging to perform. But Williams notes that pulling gently on one earlobe can lower stress levels while driving. “When there are too many ideas in your head, this helps to drain some of them out,” she says. “You don’t get the full effect, but it’s better to do with one hand than not at all.”

Williams also suggests a “balance” mudra to re-center the body. With the hands resting on the belly, thumbs touching, place the back of the left hand in the palm of the right and breathe deeply. “This helps send lots of extra energy to the head through the fingers, helping to balance the brain,” she says,

Push and pull

Traffic congestion or other frustrations may lead some drivers to clench their jaw, which can lead to other problems. Donald R. Tanenbaum, DDS, MPH, co-author of Doctor, Why Does My Face Still Ache?, says, “Fatigued jaw muscles will likely lead to headaches in the temples, tightness or pain in the jaw muscles, limited jaw motion, ear pain and pain in the joints of the jaw itself.”

When that happens he advises truckers to place the tongue on the roof of the mouth, position a thumb or fist under the jaw and attempt to open your mouth. The resistance helps ease jaw tension and temple headaches. For neck tightness, he suggests pushing the forehead against the palm and holding. Repeating these exercises several times a day should help reduce accumulated pressure in the neck and head.

Stretches may also help untie knotted muscles. Scott Gottlieb, MD, director of pain management at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in Manhattan, says, “Flexing your neck slowly side to side, and backwards and forwards, will relieve neck tension.” Do not roll your neck in one continuous circle — that can lead to injury.

For leg and back tightness, he proposes straight-legged ankle rolls to get the blood flowing again.

In the air

Stopping to smell the roses may induce appreciation for life, says Kelly Holland Azzaro, RA, CCAP, LMT, president of the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, but citrus scents are particularly helpful in dispelling stress. “Lemons, sweet orange and grapefruit help elevate your mood and relieve stress,” she says. She suggests putting a drop of diluted essential oil on a tissue and inhaling the aroma. “Or you could use a plug-in diffuser. The warmth sends the scent into the cab.”

While there’s no escaping stress, some simple remedies may keep you on course and in good health.

When Exercise Can Be Bad For You

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NewCity Patch
Nyak Patch


With obesity being one of the top health risks facing Americans today, the campaign for staying fit has never been more important.  Getting active and exercising has a myriad of benefits but there are times when it can be overwhelming for your body.  An important aspect of staying healthy is being able to understand the positives and negatives of exercise and becoming aware of your limits.

Sprains, strains, or stress fractures are the most common form of injury and will typically heal with rest.  Continuing to exercise may exacerbate the problem, prolonging the injury.  Try looking for a different exercise activity that avoids the injured part and allows it to rest and heal.  Be aware of any signs of more serious injury that may require medical attention.  Experiencing any problems moving a body part the way you usually do, trouble bearing weight on muscles or limbs, or tingling and numbness may signal a larger problem.

Exercise can also be too much of a good thing.  People who exercise too much might not only be suffering from emotional difficulties, such as with compulsive or purge-related exercising, but can cause overuse damage to the joints, muscles, and organs.  There is the saying “pain is weakness leaving the body” but there is a difference between making your muscles work harder than usual and experiencing potentially dangerous muscle spasms, weakness and dizziness.

Additionally, exercise can have negative consequences if you are sick.  Doctors often recommend that you may exercise if your symptoms are above the neck (i.e., a head cold) but that you rest if the symptoms are in your chest or stomach.  Exercising with a fever can increase your body temperature further. Overall, it is a good idea to listen to your body.  If you are experiencing pain or illness that makes exercise uncomfortable, take a break and seek a medical opinion.  Generally, it is suggested to wait 1-2 weeks after sickness to get back to your workout regime.


About Dr. Scott Gottlieb:

Dr. Scott Gottlieb is a pain management expert and the founder of Gramercy Pain Management.  He is the director of Pain Management at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary (NYEE) and has treated over 3,000 patients. Dr. Gottlieb is board certified in both pain management and anesthesiology. He has offices in both Manhattan and Montebello, N.Y. in Rockland County.

Don’t use pain as an excuse

Exercise can control weight, boost mood and ease discomfort

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Newcity Patch
Nanuet Patch
Nyack Patch
Pearlriver Patch


It’s no surprise that being overweight can cause persistent back, neck and shoulder pain. Even knee problems can develop from carrying around extra pounds.

A  Stony Brook University study of more than 1 million Americans found a clear association between obesity and pain. The highest rates of physical discomfort were experienced by the heaviest individuals.

The study, published in Obesity magazine, classified the obese respondents into one of three levels. The least heavy group reported a 68 percent higher incidence of pain than those of normal weight; the second heaviest reported a 136 percent higher incidence; while the heaviest group reported pain 254 percent more than the people who were not overweight.

That held true regardless of gender, age and whether the person had a painful illness — such as arthritis.

Excess weight adds stress to joints and the spine and exacerbates low back pain, which is one of the most common conditions I treat.

While exercise can help manage one’s physique, when a person is in pain, it is often loathed as much as the pain. If we can control our weight with exercise, we can not only alleviate physical pain but also boost our mood.

That’s because when a person is overweight, he or she tends to have low self-esteem and poor mood, depressive feelings that can exacerbate painful ailments.

It is crucial for people who suffer with chronic discomfort to engage in some form of physical activity. I recommend 20 minutes, three times a week, though it depends on age, medical issues and lifestyle. Some need more vigorous exercise five times a week.

Here are my tips for exercising for pain:

  • BEFORE ANY EXERCISE REGIMEN: Sometimes physical activity can do more harm than good, so it is important to seek the advice of a physician or even a physical therapist prior to starting an fitness regimen for your pain.
  • START GRADUALLY: A gradual approach will allow you to shed pounds without overdoing it or worsening the pain.
  • MAKE IT ROUTINE:  Exercise should be as routine as brushing your teeth, eating breakfast and getting dressed. Once it becomes habit, it will not be a struggle to get out the door and go to the gym.
  • GO LOW-IMPACT: Swimming is the best exercise for pain because there is no impact to the joints. The aerobic and muscle strengthening benefits are tremendous.
  • ADD WEIGHT: Weight-bearing exercises are important for pain sufferers because it can strengthen muscles around the joint that hurts. The stronger the muscle is, the less pain you are likely to feel in that joint.
  • TEAM UP: Find an exercise partner. If you make it fun, you are more likely to do it.
  • THINK OF THE BENEFITS: We often see pain patients in a cycle of feeling physically bad, which can cause emotional side effects. One feeling causes the other. If you exercise (even for a short time!) your mood will improve, most likely causing your aches to improve as well.


About Dr. Scott Gottlieb: Dr. Scott Gottlieb is a pain management expert and the founder of Gramercy Pain Management. He is the director of Pain Management at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary (NYEE) and has treated over 3,000 patients. Dr. Gottlieb is board certified in both pain management and anesthesiology. He has offices in both Manhattan and Montebello, N.Y. in Rockland County.