Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Pillar Program

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you are unfortunately likely familiar with the concept of pain, depression, and fatigue during treatment and even after treatment. Options to help with these symptoms may become costly or time-consuming. That is where a new online program called “Reimagine” comes into play. Developed by researchers at Duke University, Reimagine is an online, free program that has been proven to reduce fatigue and depression in breast cancer survivors. The “Pillar Program,” as it is called on their website, focuses on teaching two major skillsets: solution-focused thinking and cognitive reframing. What that boils down to is using a step-wise program to teach patients or survivors to identify their needs and how they can control getting those needs met, as well as thinking about different ways to approach problems in life. This online program also features mind-body exercises including meditation and guided imagery. The women involved in the study on this program reported a greater reduction in depression and fatigue compared to the usual standard of care for these symptoms. A line from the website for Reimagine reads “Just as you can train your body to get physically stronger, you can train your mind to get mentally stronger and to respond to stressors in ways that allow you to feel calm, clear and in control — no matter what life throws at you.” While cancer is a physical condition, it often has psychological affects that can go unaddressed during treatment. This program fills that need in an affordable (free!), convenient (online!) and comprehensive fashion. Check out the program using the link below!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Prevent Injuries with Good Posture

For those of us who are knitters (and those of us who aren’t!) posture is an extremely important part of our daily routines and hobbies. As easy as it is to neglect, good posture can help prevent injuries and discomfort in our bodies. Having poor or slouched posture restricts the space that organs have to work in, namely the lungs and digestive organs. This can result in feelings of tiredness, achiness, or just feeling unwell in general. When knitting or stitching, sitting for an extended period of time can cause stiffness, tightness, and shortening of muscles. Improving posture takes a lot of practice and a lot of attentiveness, but over time having better posture will become second nature, and can help you feel a lot better about yourself! A good tip for those who typically sit for an extended period of time, whether you have a desk job, are an avid knitter, or lead a more sedentary lifestyle, is to try to get up and stretch your legs at periodic intervals. This break can be something as quick as taking a lap or two around your house or going on a longer walk outside. This helps to stretch your muscles, improve circulation, and get rid of tension that builds up over time. It also increases oxygen delivery to the brain to help you feel more alert and get through that afternoon slump!
This 2-page booklet from stitchlinks gives a great overview of this topic, including “Dos” and Don’ts” of posture. It also includes a series of posture tips for every position including sitting in a chair, sitting at a computer, standing, and lying down. 
Check out the link below!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

What is the difference between Pilates and Yoga breathing?
By Naomi Aaronson and Ann Marie Turo
As an Occupational Therapist, many patients come to me who are in pain and are suffering from a variety of issues including breast cancer, repetitive stress injuries, musculoskeletal problems, and back pain. I use both Yoga and Pilates in my practice Integrated Mind and Body in Boston for relaxation, and to help prepare patients physically and psychologically for the treatments that I offer. They are often curious about the breathing and ultimately ask, " What is the difference between Pilates breathing and yoga breathing?"
Pilates breathing is "ribcage breathing" or three-dimensional breathing (breathing to the back and side of the ribcage). The breath is taken in through the nose, and exhaled through pursed lips. The benefits of this type of breathing are many. It relaxes and releases tension in tight chest and shoulder muscles  as the exhale facilitates contraction of the transverse abdominas, multifidi, and pelvic floor. This in turn, activates the lymphatic system clearing the proximal lymph nodes located in the abdominal region.
Pilates is a great modality in working with breast cancer patient especially those who have received mastectomies, lymph node removal or breast reconstruction. The breathing in Pilates helps my clients and patients to "get back in touch with their bodies" and to recruit the correct muscles. They tell me that they feel more relaxed, yet energized at the same time after Pilates.
Yoga Breathing is "belly breathing." In Yoga, the breath is taken in through the nose as the belly expands and then one exhales through the nose as the belly contracts. Yoga breathing helps to engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms us when we are in " fight or flight mode." This promotes the relaxation response and allows muscles to lengthen, stretch and relax as it oxygenates the blood.
Both Yoga and Pilates breathing are forms of diaphragmatic breathing and are useful in my practice. However, they work the body in different ways. I use either Pilates or yoga breathing depending on patient needs and what my treatment goals are for that day.
For more information on Pilates breathing for breast cancer recovery please look for the book "Pilates for the Breast Cancer Survivor: A Guide to Recovery, Healing and Wellness”