Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sleep Hygiene

Are you the kind of person who goes to bed each night and falls asleep almost instantly? Does your spouse or partner take many more minutes to fall asleep each night than you do? Which of these two people is the person with the problem?

The correct answer is: the person who falls asleep instantly is the person with the problem. Surprised? Many people assume that they have trouble sleeping if they can’t fall asleep right away. Some are even jealous of partners who can fall asleep instantly or who can sleep anywhere at any time.

So, what’s going on? Blame our constantly on-the-go society. We’re being challenged to fit more and more into our daily routine. How many hours did you sleep last night?

How Much Sleep is Enough?

Research by noted experts including Dr. James Maas of Cornell University has found that our bodies need about one hour of sleep for every 2 hours of wakefulness. So, in any given 24 hour period, we need about 8 hours of sleep. When we get less sleep than we need, we begin to accumulate a sleep debt. Effects are cumulative and lead to becoming sleep deprived.

One need not look any further than to young children to understand that lack of sleep becomes a bigger issue as we age. Most young children are easily observed as having no shortage of energy. Fast forward to college-age people and it becomes easier to see signs of lack of sleep such as dark under-eye circles not to mention sleeping during class. Fast forward into middle aged adulthood and it’s common for people to say something like, “I used to have more energy.”

Are You Sleep Deprived?

Do you often fall asleep in less than 5 minutes? Do you need an alarm clock to awake at an appropriate hour? Is it a struggle to get out of bed in the morning? Are you tired, irritable and stressed during the week? Do you fall asleep watching TV? Do you fall asleep in meetings? If you answered yes to more than a couple of these questions, it is likely you aren’t getting enough sleep.

Current research suggests that more than 1 in 5 adults in the US are moderately to seriously sleep deprived. The effects of this are far reaching. Business and industry lose billions of dollars because of worker absences and mistakes made on the job. And, fatigue is often cited in vehicle accidents.

Our Body’s Rhythm

Our body’s progression from a state of wakefulness to a state of restfulness is called our circadian rhythm. It’s important for us to pay attention to that natural rhythm. In general, we tend to be more alert during lighted hours and less alert in darker hours. In part this is due to the secretion of the hormone melatonin which increases after dark and helps our body become better prepared for sleep.

Sleep studies have been conducted demonstrating just how powerful this rhythm is. The Multiple Sleep Latency Test involves taking a person who has awakened from a full night’s sleep and then measuring their ability to fall back asleep every 20 minutes over the next 10 hours. The faster someone is able to get back to sleep, the bigger the indication that they are sleep deprived.

How is Your Sleep Hygiene?

Just as paying attention to good brushing and flossing techniques are to good dental hygiene, paying attention to good sleep habits relates to better sleep hygiene. Optimizing your own sleep hygiene includes: establishing a regular routine for when you go to bed and when you wake up – never varying by more than one hour either way 7 days a week; keeping your bedroom cool (around 65˚) and dark; removing all electronic devices except a phone for emergencies; avoiding nicotine, caffeine and alcohol for at least 3 hours before bedtime; avoiding naps or sleeping in; eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.

By getting a better night’s sleep you’ll likely find your overall health, wellness and happiness increasing over time. Once your sleep debt has been repaid – and you continue to observe optimal sleep hygiene – you may naturally discover a more energetic state. Who knows, maybe your golf game might even improve!

Sleep well.

Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolution 2011 - Your Wellness

For at least as long as people have been making resolutions to change in the New Year, health has topped many of those lists. No doubt it’s on there again for millions of Americans.

Why is it, then, that good intentions soon go awry for so many? Candidly, it’s often because, good intentions aside, the health goal sought is unrealistic. Borrowing a page from business school, following is a roadmap toward achieving your wellness (or other) goal in the New Year.

Common B-School wisdom states that in order for a goal to be achievable it must be SMART. With apologies to George T. Duran who is first credited with identifying this process, I’ll add my own take on his mnemonic which stands for: Specific; Measureable; Attainable; Realistic; and, Timely. In other words, a resolution to lose weight feels really good to make. But, it may soon loom above you like an albatross doing more harm than good to your long term wellness.

Specific — What is your goal? If it’s to lose weight, exactly how much weight do you need to lose in order to be healthy and happy? If your goal is to be more healthy, you need to quantify the goal for it to be meaningful.

Measurable — Weight loss (or gain) is easily measured using a scale. Quitting smoking can be measured by the number of cigarettes smoked in a certain period of time. Adopting a healthier diet can be measured by counting calories and keeping a daily consumption log. Once you’ve decided on the specifics of your goal, be sure to find a means to accurately measure your progress along the way.

Attainable — Just because a goal is specific and measurable doesn’t mean it’s attainable. When it comes to wellness, be sure to consult with medical professionals in order to determine if your goal will bring about the desired result. Many times good intentions can be followed quickly with the desire to do more or push harder which may end up doing more harm than good.

Realistic — By now you’ve no doubt caught on to the theme here. Wellness is an admirable goal. You’ll live with less pain, you’ll likely live longer, you’ll be more productive and you will most certainly find more happiness. However, as the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Know your own strengths and weaknesses. Plan for setbacks along the way but don’t let them derail your program. Start out with mini goals that can be met quickly and easily. Doing so will reinforce the bigger goal.

Timely — Don’t forget to set a timeframe alongside your goal. Determine just how long it will take to achieve milestones along the way. Use this to gauge your progress. Revise your plan if need be. Don’t toss your plan as just another half-baked resolution because you aren’t seeing results as quickly as you’d hoped.

By taking a SMART approach to your wellness resolutions in 2011, you’ll find better success. And, you’ll reap the rewards for a long time to come.

If SMART goals don’t do the trick for you, you can always fallback upon the DUMB approach. In case you’re wondering, that stands for: Doable; Understandable; Manageable; and, Beneficial. Whatever works, so long as wellness is on your list and you take steps today to enjoy better health!

When it comes to wellness, Relax The Back has your back. We’ve been helping Valley residents achieve their goal to relieve back pain for nearly 17 years from our store in Uptown Plaza. Our solutions are non-surgical and focused on properly supporting proper postures. We take the time to listen to our clients and to provide education and alternatives. We have products that support a 24/7 solution to back pain. Best wishes to you in achieving your wellness resolution in 2011. Here’s to your health!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Great Recession

Leading indicators; trailing indicators; pundits that say one thing; pundits that say the opposite, who is to know what’s what when it comes to the state of our economy? One thing is for certain, for most people alive today, we can all agree we’ve not seen nor lived through times like these before. And, almost all of us were either directly affected in one way or another adversely, or we know someone who was.

Is the worst of it behind us? Seems like more pundits than not suggest this is the case. Yet, the average person may not agree. As a business owner, both personally and professionally, I sure hope the worst is behind us. Though I may have rose-colored glasses on, they are decidedly mute. I harbor no illusions of things coming rushing back as quickly as things fell apart a few months ago.

Unlike some, my business is still standing. I believe it’ll be standing for many years to come. There are a handful of practices—all in place well before the economy took its dive—which I credit for getting my business through to this point.

Having a product or service that addresses a consumer need is more important than ever before since discretionary incomes have been hammered so hard recently. Having a location that is easy to find and access helps. Providing operating hours that are convenient should go without saying.

Every business owner would like to believe that his or her products are unique and not available elsewhere. But, for the most part, that simply isn’t true. And, these same owners want to believe that they offer the best value proposition. The truth is that the internet has become the great equalizer making it much easier for the consumer to find the exact product they want and get the best price, too. So when it comes right down to it, there remains but one critically important means for one business to set itself apart from all the others. And that is…

Customer Service

To many, the term “customer service” seems worn out because it’s bandied about so often. Sadly, to some, the term comes across as an oxymoron. The fact remains, the best way for one business to set itself apart from its competitors is by standing above the pack through how it treats people from curious prospects, through first-time buyers, to repeat buyers and beyond. Customers grow increasingly savvy by the day. I believe they can see through supposed customer service practices that are anything but customer friendly.

For us at Relax The Back, we quantify “customer service” in the following ways: 1. Greeting—whether when calling or walking in our door, we’re glad to see you and we try hard to convey that with a prompt and courteous greeting; 2. Discovering needs—ours is a specialized set of products addressing specific needs and it’s our job to find out each person’s unique situation so we can find the best products to match those needs; 3. Education—for us, it goes way beyond just filling orders over a counter, we want everyone who visits us to come away with a better understanding of what our products do and how they address their unique needs; 4. Presentation—our products are designed to promote proper postures which, in turn, can help resolve both acute and chronic pain. We don’t leave customers to wander aimlessly around the store, we’re glad to spend the time necessary to make everyone feel the relief that comes with correctly selected, high quality products; 5. Follow-up—It is our goal that every customer be completely satisfied with their purchase. Our highly trained associates are available to our customers after the sale to ensure satisfaction as well as to address any questions or concerns.

It may sound trite, but to us, “old-fashioned” customer service is our hallmark. We aren’t perfect. Though, perfection is the goal. If you—or someone you know—suffers back pain (or simply wants to avoid back pain), please give us a chance. We’re the original, and only, Relax The Back store in the Valley. We’ve been serving customers from Central Phoenix since 1994

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gadget of the Month; Or: As Seen on TV

“In the United States, back pain is reported to occur at least once in 85% of adults below the age of 50. Nearly all of them will have at least one recurrence. It is the second most common illness-related reason given for a missed workday and the most common cause of disability. Work-related back injury is the number one occupational hazard.” Source:

Is it any wonder, then, why every new gadget shown in informercials and late night TV captures so much attention? Nearly everyone has—or will—experience debilitating back pain at some point in their lifetime. And, no one wants to rush right out to sign up for invasive surgical procedures.

If you experience back pain, don’t look to the Gadget of the Month Club for effective resolution. Instead, trust the professionals. Seek medical advice from primary care physicians and specialists. Find trusted and experienced physical and massage therapists. Ask them about effective ways to avoid, minimize and manage pain.

Is Surgery the Only Answer?
Only your doctor can answer this question for you. Everyone’s circumstance is different. If your pain is so severe that your doctor is talking surgery ask her if there are other solutions worth exploring first.

Why Physical Therapy?
Physical therapists are highly trained specialists. These are people who work with patients one-on-one to design, implement and monitor a program just for you. Often these programs will include elements such as stretching and strengthening exercises combined with a focus on correcting poor body mechanics. Diet and lifestyle changes may also be explored.

What about Massage Therapy?
Like physical therapists, massage therapists are also highly trained and must complete a rigorous course of study including anatomy. Massage therapists are trained in several techniques; knowing the right technique for a given type of pain can make all the difference.

As Seen on TV
The creators of infomercials are masters at finding the right triggers to get people to buy. Often the ads make it sound simple to return an item if the purchaser isn’t entirely satisfied. But remember the old adage, “if it sounds too good to be true… .” If you can only buy something through a TV offer, likely there are many reasons. Among those reasons is the fact that traditional retail stores may not be willing to stand behind the product or the company. And, as is the case with some products that got their start on TV, when the consuming public stands behind it en masse, that product finds its way onto store shelves.

A Local Resource

Beyond physical and massage therapy, is there any other resource to tap before heading into surgery? Yes!

Relax The Back has been a resource to Phoenicians since 1994. Our store specializes in products designed to prevent and reduce back pain. Our sales staff is comprised of highly trained individuals who work with our clients to understand their unique circumstances. We have educational products including books about understanding and managing back pain. And we have a full assortment of products to help pain sufferers manage their pain 24 hours a day, day in and day out. We have products for sleep, home, office, massage, travel and fitness.

At Relax The Back, our goal isn’t so much just selling products. Rather, it’s about making sure we correctly understand what an individual needs and wants. We’re trained educators, not just salespeople. We’re certified in office ergonomics. While we’d love to promise you a cure, we can’t. What we can promise you is a host of products than can bring you relief from your pain. If you can rest, work, drive and go about your daily routines in little or no pain, isn’t that worth looking into?

Please include us in your list of specialist resources when you are looking for non-surgical answers to your back pain.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It Only Hurts When I Sit

Our bodies are designed to operate in two postures really well. The first is standing upright and moving. The second is lying down and resting. We really didn’t need to think about what sitting posture does to our bodies until well into the Industrial Revolution. With the proliferation of desktop PCs, huge numbers of us now have jobs that require us to exist in a seated position for hours on end.

It seems obvious to us that a good pair of shoes really helps us if we need to be on our feet a lot. And, it’s equally obvious that a better quality bed equates to a better nights’ rest. What isn’t so obvious is that a well constructed office chair can make a huge difference not only to our comfort but to our continuing well-being and overall productivity as well.

Ergonomic Isn't Just a Fancy Buzz-Word
An effective definition of the term ergonomic is simply: an item that fits/adapts to the user.

Until a few short years ago, office furniture was decidedly not ergonomic. Many companies placed far more emphasis on either the aesthetics or cost than on the comfort of the people using the furniture. More recently, individuals and companies have begun to realize that productivity increases when people use tools that provide better support and comfort. Ergonomic furniture and office products are beginning to be understood and accepted.

Qualities of a “Good” Office Chair

Starting from the ground up, a better office chair will have a 5-star (5 leg) base for improved balance. The casters will be large for better weight distribution. The chair will have a height adjustable piston or cylinder. The seat pan will be contoured like a tractor seat for better and more even support; and it’ll have a rounded or waterfall edge to avoid painful contact against the back of the user’s thighs. The seat pan will be constructed from solid wood or a composite material rather than cardboard or plastic for improved durability. The cushion will be made from HR (high resiliency) foam or memory foam for greater support and comfort. The back of the chair will also be made from quality materials and foam as well as provide adjustable lumbar support. Features which set the very best apart from the rest include: seat pan depth adjustment; articulating armrests; full range lockable tilt adjustment; height adjustable back rest; and, contoured back support which provides lateral as well as lumbar support.

Optimizing Your Workspace

A high quality chair is only one part of the equation when it comes to setting up an ergonomic workspace. Other factors of great importance include correctly arranging other tools such as the computer monitor, keyboard and mouse as well as the telephone document printer and anything else used regularly.

The keyboard and monitor must be placed directly in front of the user, not at an angle. If the monitor cannot be directly in front of the user because the user must also interact with other people across from them, a monitor arm or stand may help. Unless the numeric keypad portion of the keyboard is used frequently, the alphabetic (or “typewriter”) portion of the keyboard should be centered in front of the user. Pay attention to the placement of the mouse such that the user does not have to reach or extend an arm at awkward angles. Often this may be resolved by placing the mouse on the left side of the keyboard. Yes, that takes some practice. But, the decrease in pain is worth the effort.

Any tools used frequently should be placed within easy reach. If a phone is used a lot, especially at the same time as using the keyboard, a wireless headset is in order.

Tools used less often can be placed farther away. Unless the user is constantly printing documents, placing the printer some distance away such that it is necessary to stand up and walk a short distance will provide beneficial “micro” breaks.

All In the Name of Productivity

Whether working in a traditional office or from home, these days it’s all about productivity. By equipping yourself with quality ergonomic office furniture and arranging your work area properly, productivity will instantly improve because you won’t be thinking about how much pain you are in all day long.

Trust the Professionals
Here at the Relax The Back store in central Phoenix, we’re certified in office ergonomics. We have years of experience helping people to understand the importance of top quality ergonomic office chairs, desks, monitor stands, keyboard trays and more. Whether you are trying to improve your office environment or in finding a chair which will make you comfortable for all those hours of surfing the web at home, we can help.

Relax The Back in central Phoenix has been serving the community of greater Phoenix since 1994 from Uptown Plaza conveniently located north of downtown in between Interstate 17 and SR 51. We’re open 7 days a week for your convenience.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Does Your Back Hurt?

Here are two sobering statistics about back pain:
1) 8 out of 10 people will suffer at least one episode of severe back pain in their lifetimes;
2) Non-specific back pain is second only to colds & flu as the reason why people miss work.

People with back pain have a choice to either suffer or seek relief. In seeking relief there are myriad books on the topic proffering various paths to relief. Late night television is cluttered with infomercials hawking products that are supposedly “proven.” And, there are many professional medical pathways from yoga to chiropractic to specialized surgical procedures. There are so many avenues out there that it can be overwhelming.

In recent years, the medical community seems to have come together in support of their patients in one major way: non-invasive, non-surgical pathways toward relieving back pain should be the first choice treatment path. Surgery should only be attempted if everything else has failed.

Since its inception in 1984, Relax The Back has been a leading resource for the relief and prevention of back and neck pain. The company has been serving the Phoenix metropolitan area since 1994.

Following are a few non-surgical methods many have used to relieve their back pain.

Spinal Decompression
The postures we put ourselves into in our adult lives contribute to the gravitational pull on our spines. Pressure on the intervertebral discs results in loss of body height and nerve pain. Many people experience this as sciatica. Others experience numbing in their hands and fingers.

Remember how freeing it felt as a young child swinging upside down from a monkey bar?

Spinal decompression allows the vertebrae to separate taking pressure off the nerves. Spinal decompression doesn’t have to be an expensive medical procedure offered only in a doctor’s office. There are many tools available for home use.

One of the most powerful tools available is the inversion table. Better versions of this product are extremely safe, do not necessitate the need for a helper and allow the user to set angles of inversion as complete inversion may be too extreme for some.

It may sound overly simple. But, our bodies—especially as we age—need help when going from a period of rest to a period of activity. Spending a few minutes each day stretching can be a great way to help soften stiff muscles. Exercise books are a resource for finding effective stretching techniques. Products such as stability balls, foam rolls and the Core Stretch can help people stretch safely.

Zero Gravity
When NASA first sent men into space, one of their first observations was the position bodies assumed naturally in micro-gravity. Akin to a relaxed fetal position, research has proven that these angles produce minimal stress on the body.

Holding the knees and pelvis at specific angles allows the major muscles in the core and legs to relax. When the muscles relax, they don’t pull against bones. We call this neutral posture. When combined with reclining the body, gravity is more evenly distributed across the body’s surface resulting in the release of pressure on the spine. Products such as recliners, adjustable beds, and some massage chairs have been developed to support both neutral posture and zero gravity.

Far-Infrared Heat

Unlike typical heating pads that heat the skin before they can get through to the muscle, far-infrared works from the inside. Healing pads, massage beds and chairs incorporating far-infrared technology have become increasingly popular in our society having started in Eastern cultures generations ago. Simply put, the technology relies on an invisible portion of the light spectrum to deliver powerful relief from deep within. And, because these products don’t make your skin feel sunburned, they can be used for extended periods of time safely.

Manage Stress

Whether it’s taking time to “smell the roses,” or to watch a comedy on TV, find something that takes your mind off your daily stressors. Plenty of anecdotal evidence exists suggesting that stress is a major cause of myriad health problems. Exercising, eating well, maintaining good postures and using products which are ergonomically designed all play a role in helping to manage stress.

A Trusted Resource

Relax The Back in Uptown Plaza has specialized in ergonomic products since 1994. Our first concerns are to understand the sources and causes of the pains our customers are in. From there, we provide education so our customers can make informed decisions to help support a better quality of life. If you have back pain, please come by and see what we can do to help.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Resolutions for Sciatica Pain

If you have pain radiating from your buttock down your leg, a likely cause of this is sciatica. The sciatic nerve runs from your spinal column (between L4 and L5) through your buttock and down your leg. When your vertibrae become compressed, the nerve is pinched and the result is pain.

There are non-surgical methods to achieve relief from this pain. Included among them: SacroEase is a customizable seat and lumbar support; inversion tables offer a safe way to decompress your spine - the best models are safe and you are in control of just how much, or how little, you invert; zero-gravity recliners help hold your spine in neutral alignment and take all pressure off your spine while providing spinal decompression; an ergonomic office chair with a sculpted back can also provide spinal decompression; and, an adjustable memory foam bed will also help hold your spine in a neutral alignment.