Thoracic Rotation Exercise for Stiff, Sore Backs

Try out this exercise any time your back is feeling stiff. If will help you get more rotation in the thoracic spine. Extension is also important, but this video focuses on rotation specifically. If you don’t have a foam roller, you can substitute a large pillow or other support under your ankle and knee. Keep your knee touching the support the whole time. If this feels too easy, bring your knee up closer to your chest.

Step 1 “The Reach”: Lie on your left side with your bottom leg straight. Support your right ankle and knee on a foam roller, so that your knee and hip are both at 90 degree angles.







Step 2 “The Wiggle”: Wiggle your left shoulder blade up and around towards the ceiling. It helps to grab your left wrist with your opposite hand in order to pull your left arm up. This creates the necessary tension to give you the starting position. This will feel way too easy if you skip this step. Keep your left hand pressing up towards the ceiling the entire time, like you’re balancing a heavy plate.




Step 3 “The Twist”: Inhale as you twist your torso to your right (towards the floor). Exhale to bring it back to the start. Your right arm guides this motion, but we’re not concerned with how flexible your shoulder joint is, rather how much rotation you can feel through your torso.



If you don’t feel anything while doing this exercise, rotate your top hip forward just a bit, raise your top knee up towards your head, and really keep that top knee pinned down into the roller as you open your right arm and your torso to the side. You should feel a generalized stretch/opening across the chest and throughout the back. Depending on where you hold your tension, you may feel this exercise in different places than someone else.

Repeat for 10-15 reps and then switch to the other side.

Alarming New Research About Frozen Shoulder

I ran across an interesting recent article in the American Journal of Sports Medicine that takes a deeper look at what’s happening with frozen shoulder by zooming in to the molecular level. Watch the video below for a summary or if you prefer to read the summary just scroll down.

Researchers studied two groups of patients, 10 with frozen shoulder and 10 with stable shoulders.

frozen shoulder oakland


The theory is that there are “danger signals” called Alarmins that are endogenous molecules that get released into the extracellular milieu after infection or tissue injury. I love that term “extracellular milieu”. It’s really just a super fancy way to say the environment outside of the cell. And endogenous means “produced from within…so the alarmins are being produced from within the cells of the shoulder capsule, not caused by some external or environmental factor. These alarmins basically send the alarm that there has been cell and tissue damage.


They obtained tissue samples from the innermost tissues of the shoulder (the capsule) and stained them with hematoxylin and eosin (H and E) dyes and then analyzed them by immunohisochemistry using antibodies against alarmin molecules . They then measured these immunoreactivities and graded them from weak to strong. In case you need a microbiology refresher, using H and E dyes just tells you that the cell nuclei get stained blue and the cytoplasm and extracellular matrix get stained various shades of pink, so that researchers can tell what they are looking at. And then they introduce antibodies (proteins that combine chemically with substances the body interprets as foreign) to check how strongly the alarmin molecules would “sound the alarm”.


The tissue samples from the frozen shoulder patients showed fibroblastic hypercellularity (way more than a usual number of cells that build tissue) and increased subsynovial vascularity (more blood flow in the shoulder capsule) compared with the control group. Also, the immunoreactivity of alarmins was significantly stronger in the frozen shoulder tissue samples. It’s also important to note that the expression of those alarmin molecules had a significant correlation with the severity of the shoulder pain reported by those patients.


This study shows that, potentially, there is a role for alarming alarmin warning signals in frozen shoulder and that those molecules are associated with the patient’s shoulder pain. So what does this mean for us as chiropractors or alternative health practitioners? What are the next steps? Besides follow up studies with a larger control group, what do we do with this information?

Well, I can think of two things:

  1. There may be a link between immune reactions in the shoulder capsule and immune reactions in other places in the body. Eating a low-inflammation and low-immune reactivity diet may help you feel less pain. A good starting point is reading The Paleo Approach by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, PhD. I can also help you create a custom diet plan as a result of my training in functional medicine.

2.Chiropractic adjustments have been proven to boost the immune system. If you are experiencing any pain or loss of range of motion from frozen shoulder, you may benefit from boosting your immune system overall. Please click here if you’d like to schedule an appointment.



Alarmins in Frozen Shoulder: A Molecular Association Between Inflammation and Pain

First Published November 30, 2017 

Photos: wiki commons

How to Shake Off Post-Flight Soreness

As we approach the holiday season, many of us are looking at one or more airplane trips in our near future. Do you usually feel horrible after a long flight? Does your lower back scream from sitting so long and your shoulders and upper back clench up from being squeezed into a tiny seat? While airplane seats are far from comfortable, there are a few action steps you can take to counteract the tightening that you feel in your body.


The re-circulated air in airplanes is notorious for being drying to the body. All of our organs and systems function most optimally when we are hydrated, so start drinking water before you board your flight, sip more water during the flight, and pull that water bottle out again once you land. You can mix in other fluids like teas and coconut water if you’re getting bored of water. And don’t forget that fruits and vegetables contain water, so snack on some grapes, snap peas, celery sticks, cucumbers, or an apple during your flight.

Fire up Your Core.

Before boarding, do something to work your core muscles. That may be an unobtrusive single leg standing hold, some gentle squats, or even standing in proper posture while bracing your core. After you land try to do something similar while you wait to pick up your luggage.

Stretch it out.

If your seat mates are amenable to you entering and exiting your row a few times, you can grab some standing stretch breaks in the aisle. It doesn’t technically matter which stretches or movements you do, as long as you do SOMETHING! Stretch your arms overhead, do a few small lunges, loosen your spine with a few standing twists, or lean forward one leg at a time to stretch your calves. Once you are off the plane and have a bit more room to move around, consider doing a quick yoga sequence in your hotel room. You can find plenty of free yoga workouts on youtube or you can subscribe to and do one of their guided yoga classes. Even five or ten minutes of movement before you collapse into your couch or bed can help alleviate a lot of built-up tension and prevent post flight soreness. Invest in a foam roller.

Roll it out.

Whether you pack a travel foam roller or set of yoga tune-up balls or some other small tools, remember to unpack it before you go to sleep for the night. You can restore circulation to your muscles and decrease the tightness in them in just a few minutes. Roll out your glutes while you floss your teeth. Focus on your quads while you brush your teeth. And release your back muscles while you check email on your phone.

Move it, lymph!

Ever wonder why people wear compression socks or stockings on planes? One reason is that they can assist with returning excess fluid out of the lower legs and back towards the heart. If you aren’t going to wear compression socks, at least elevate your legs against a wall or a stack of pillows when you arrive at your destination. Gravity is helpful to move lymph.

Epsom Salt Soak or Otherwise Immerse in Water.

Depending on the nature of your travels, you may or may not have access to a bathtub or hot tub. But in the case that you do have the opportunity, jump on the chance to re-invigorate your muscles with a twenty minute soak in warm water. Adding epsom salts introduces much-needed minerals to your muscles to help them recover.

What are your best travel tips to help your body feel it’s best? Let us know in the comments below!

What REALLY Makes a Power Yoga Class Accessible?

power yoga oakland

In my early days as a yoga attendee (bear with me here, I was age 20 at the time), I thought that accessibility meant that there were straps or blocks or bolsters nearby, and that maybe other people needed them, but not me. Even if it meant straining and forcing, I was bound and determined to do those yoga poses the “right” way. I thought there was pride associated with not using any props.

20 years of practicing yoga later, I have two requirements for attending a yoga class. I must feel comfortable. And I must feel blissful.

Comfortable: Not comfort in the sense of is the room too hot? Or did I wear clothes with the proper freedom of movement?

But comfort in terms of whether I feel safe showing up exactly how I am today. Am I trulyseen for who I am (gender-wise, body size and shape-wise, and mobility-wise). Are teachers using gender neutral terms like pecs or chest, instead of breasts? Do they offer suggestions “for those in the room that have tight hamstrings,” instead of saying “for the guys”?

Does the teacher really deeply understand what it might be like to have limitations in yoga poses (asana) arise, not because of a lack of flexibility or strength, but simply because of tissues of the body physically touching each other. If you have a big belly, you can only reach so much flexion in a forward fold before your belly hits your thighs for example. I because acutely aware of this situation when I was pregnant, but however a yoga teacher needs to experience this, that concept needs to present in the back of their mind.

You can’t draw assumptions about what a student’s asana is going to look like, based solely on how they appear. And you have no idea what injury or trauma or other lived experience is lurking below the surface. So you need to cue for possibilities, cue for exploration, cue for wonder and playfulness, and only then can the asana blossom.


Now, let me get one thing clear. I’m not asking to be spoon-fed rainbows and unicorns. (I can eat those quite skillfully with my own silverware, thank you!) And I know that I’m responsible for my own bliss (you know that state you get to…when your breath is smooth and you’re working hard and your body feels warmed up and your mind is clear). But there are some subtle things yoga teachers can do to allow the time and space for that to happen for a student.

Here’s a big one:

“Do what feels good to you.” Yoga teachers say this a lot. I’m as guilty as the next. And it’s a lovely thing to say, provided that you truly mean it and have an understanding of what it might mean to people of differing sizes and levels of mobility. And if it comes across as believable.

You know how some yoga teachers will say “do whatever feels good for YOUR body” and then they proceed to demo the full expression of a tricky pose right in front of your mat, sighing contentedly as if bending into that twisty pretzel position (that I could not have even achieved when I was a toddler) was the easiest part of their day?  

Well, that never seems blissful to me. There are a handful of power yoga teachers here in Oakland (cough: Rachel and Whitney at Left Coast Power Yoga) who have mastered the art of offering lots of options while keeping things playful. They’ve found the delicate balance between not taking ourselves too seriously, and trying to push yourself just a bit, but only if it is blissful.

Remind us to breathe. Be playful. Remind us that it’s no big deal if we fall out of a pose. And also, it’s no bid deal if we “nail” a pose, whatever that really means, anyway. Offer sitting and breathing as an option if we aren’t feeling twisty-pretzel-asana-version B. Or offer lying down if that’s what your body is asking for. And again, remind us to breathe.

And here’s one important word to avoid:

Just. Just twist into this complicated challenging pose, and then just lift your bottom arm over your top leg. Yes, just like that!

When we say just, it infuses the assumption that this should be easy for all bodies.

Luckily I’ve learned enough throughout my two decades of yoga practice about what works for my body and what doesn’t, to safely chose options and movements that feel good to me and still generally stay within the flow and energy or the group class. But what if I were a beginner?

It’s up to the yoga teachers to keep students safe. The responsibility extends in both directions, I do think you need to speak up if you have particular injuries or conditions that you aren’t sure yet how to navigate in a yoga class. But teachers, it’s up to you to keep us safe both physically and mentally.

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What’s the Best Foam Roller For My Injury?

Have you over been overwhelmed with the huge variety of foam rolling tools on the market and wondered “What is the best foam roller for my injury?” Well, I’ve got a tip for you…in some cases, the best foam roller isn’t actually a foam roller! While a traditional foam roller is great for rolling out the tight muscles in your back, increasing thoracic mobility, and stretching open tight pecs, there are better tools out there when it comes to foam rolling exercises for your legs and arms.

The biggest barrier to actually implementing a foam rolling routine is that people that are already in pain, don’t particularly want to get up and down from the ground. And they generally don’t want to or are unable to use their bodyweight to create the leverage necessary to get the right amount of pressure on their muscles from the foam roller. Enter the Rolflex Tool! This is a hinge-based tool originally developed as an arm-aid tool for musicians. It adjusts to a smaller opening for forearms and calves and adjusts to a larger opening for quads, hamstrings, biceps, and triceps. It requires very little grip strength to operate, which is important to those with arthritic hands or forearm injuries. Check out this video to hear more about what makes this the best foam roller tool and see applications for rolling forearms and legs.

If you have any questions about how to use this foam rolling tool, please comment below. Also, I’d love to hear about your favorite foam roller tool. How do you use it? What do you like about it? And what are your biggest challenges with incorporating self-care muscle work into your workout recovery practice? Is it that you can’t stand getting up and down? Never have a wide-open space? Dog keeps licking your face or your cat jumps on you? I want to hear about your experience and what you have found that works the best for you!

*Rolflex tool link is an Amazon affiliate link.

Tennis Elbow Exercises

Which Tennis Elbow exercises actually work and which don’t? There is currently only one evidence-based tennis elbow exercise, and it involved using a Therabar or Flexbar. There’s nothing worse than having your physical therapist or chiropractor assign you a tennis elbow exercise in the office, and then you get home and can’t remember which hand goes where, and what direction to twist. Inspired by brilliant rap lyricist Missy Elliott, I show you an easy way to remember how to do this super-effective exercise for tennis elbow.

Also in this video I show you how to decide which color (level of resistance) to start with. Hint: if it is too difficult and your form breaks down, you would get better results by starting with a less-difficult resistance. This exercise is good for anyone who performs repetitive motions (dentist, guitar player, rock climber, keyboard/computer user. Most people who have tennis elbow aka lateral epicondylitis or lateral epicondylosis (find out more about the terms “itis” vs. “osis” here) don’t actually play tennis. But they get the same painful and annoying condition developing in their outer elbow as those who show up mentally and physically for a tennis match.

81% of subjects who did this eccentric exercise (in addition to traditional treatment) reported a decrease in pain compared to only 21% of subjects who skipped this exercise and only did traditional treatment. Building up eccentric strength in a tendon is important because we can tolerate more load in eccentric movement than we can in concentric movement, so it’s important to improve that particular type of tendon strength. This will help rock climbers resist forearm fatigue, and help computer users perform tasks for a longer period of time without having as much elbow pain.

So order a FlexBar on Amazon and get to it!

* Amazon affiliate link

* Tennis Elbow Exercises: Eccentric research article:

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Female Chiropractor in Oakland California

Have you been looking for a female chiropractor in Oakland California?
I recently ran across an interesting study in the journal of Chiropractic and Manual Therapies. It’s the first of it’s kind to look at the differences in treatment outcomes of patients who have neck pain between female chiropractors and male chiropractors.

In this video, I summarize the results of the study and provide my own thoughts on the issues.

Why doesn’t foam rolling work anymore for my injury?

Alright, so, have you ever wondered why foam rolling and stretching and ice all of a sudden seem to stop working for certain injuries? Well I’m going to tell you why. The short answer is that we’ve moved on from a situation where we have a tight muscle, to a situation where you have a muscle filled with adhesion. So how do we get from point A to point B? Well, let’s take a look at this video:

As explained in the second half of the video, you actually need mechanical pressure to break-down adhesion. That’s what I do in my office. The techniques are manual therapy, that is, by hand. Or by tools, to get in there and break-down the adhesion. It’s not super-comfortable, but it’s not the worst treatment in the world. I would say most people would compare it to a deep tissue massage that is really really specific, and very therapeutic. There are a lot of misconceptions about what I do. One person maybe thinks I use a chainsaw to take out adhesion, another person thinks I have like, a scraper. Nothing scary like that, it’s just manual therapy techniques, getting specifically into the affected areas of the muscle that have the adhesion…taking the correct contact and the correct lines of drive, to get rid of that adhesion. It takes a little while to break it down, you can’t do it instantaneously, it’s built-up over time, and you need to chip it down over time as well. So, I hope that answers your question as to why sometimes foam rolling works and sometimes why it doesn’t. Stay tuned for the next video where I show you a new foam rolling type of tool I’ve been using recently that works 10x better than standard foam rollers for some injuries.

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Piper Wai Natural Deodorant Review

The new commercial for Piper Wai Natural Deod0rant got me thinking. Does the aluminum found in antiperspirants really have a link to breast cancer? Or is that just a myth? Here’s a quick summary of the research and my thoughts on the issue.

If you are looking for a more natural solution, you may want to watch this short video describing my experience with both homemade and store-bought natural deodorants, including why they don’t work. This is the one natural deodorant I’ve found that actually works, and the active ingredient may surprise you.

If you want to try the product, please click on the picture linked below. In full disclosure, it’s my affiliate link on Amazon. It won’t cost you anything extra to purchase the deodorant through this link, and I may earn a small commission on the sale that I put towards producing more content-rich videos and blogs.


Sunny Sunday Strawberry Sparkler

Have you ever found yourself thirsty for something besides water on a warm, lazy Sunday afternoon? And maybe you’re avoiding alcohol and its commonly proffered alternatives of sugary soda or juice. It’s too hot for tea, and iced tea takes too long to brew/cool-down. So what do you do? You make a Sunny Sunday Strawberry Spritzer!

Here’s how you do it. I’m not going to Pin-it or make a fancy how-to video for it. Because like having trans-inclusive healthcare intake forms, it just shouldn’t be that hard 😉

Up until now I thought that this kind of thing was too Martha-Stewart-y to be worth my time. But with fresh strawberries in season and a lemon tree in my front yard, I’m coming around to finding alternative hydration methods to boring tap water.

Step One: Find a pitcher/humongous jar/some type of vessel that you REALLY like. You have to really like looking at this container for this magical drink to be worth your time. Mine is glass with pictures of lemons etched into it. Maybe you like ducks instead. Maybe you find a vintage purple-curved-handled (that is a VERY interesting handle, isn’t it?) glass pitcher at a flea market.

Or you can go all hipster-farm-to-table style and choose one of those humongous mason jars and drill your own spout. Decorate it with recycled paper drink labels while you’re at it, go ahead, knock yourself out! Or perhaps you already have a sensible glass pitcher at your house and that’s good enough.

Sounds good, on to the next step.

Step Two:

Put lots of ice in your pitcher. It will keep your drink cold. Plus the more solid objects you have floating in your water, the more fancy it will be!

Step Three:

Fill up your pitcher most of the way with water.

Step Four:

Now here’s where you start slicing up your lemons. You only need like one or two, unless you like to go overboard with things. In reality, you could just squeeze a whole lemon into your pitcher and the water would taste the same as if you dumped a handful of cut-up lemons into it without squeezing them. But then you’d lose points on the fancy-scale, so don’t skip this step.

Step Five:

Do you like herbs? Good, this is your chance to put in a few sprigs of rosemary or lavender or mint or basil. Do I like herbs? Heck yes I like herbs, but somehow I can’t even keep a mint plant alive. I know, its roots are supposed to propagate like crazy and it can grow anywhere, yeah yeah, I want to blame this on our two young kids and our pee-happy male dog, but the mint-plant destruction wasn’t their doing. #willneverhaveagreenthumb

#am I allowed to use hashtags on a blog where I make fun of hipsters? I don’t know the answer to that but I refuse to type this many words without any spaces in between.

Step Six:

So things are looking pretty good in that pitcher, but still a little plain, you say? Hmm, time to add more colorful things. Chop up some strawberries and whatever other fruit your heart desires. Except for maybe bananas. I don’t think those would taste very good soaked in water? That’s a little too hardcore for me. But like, oranges would be a good choice. Some people on the internet would tell you to “muddle” your fruit before you add it, but if you have to fancy-up a word like “mash” then that tips the scale into dangerous Pinterest territory in my opinion. Besides, if you were going to go to all that trouble, why wouldn’t you just mix in some protein powder and make yourself a smoothie.  Yummm smoothie…ooh that would be a good place for that banana!

Step Seven (Optional):

Add seltzer water. How much? I don’t know. I didn’t even add seltzer water when I made this for our family. But everyone is crazy for seltzer water these days, so add like, about a can, or so.  Let me know how much is too much. How could I create a drink name like “Sunny Sunday Strawberry Sparkler” without seltzer water? Then it would just sound like something to drink while watching fireworks! Just add seltzer to make it sensational! OK, seriously, make up your mind, do you like bubbly water or not?

Step Eight:

OK, this is kind of like the cheating step at the end. Everyone else on those inspiration board websites has spent all morning muddling their fruit and creating recycled paper drink labels, rendering them too tired and thirsty to even think about doing my step eight. Here it is *whispers* :

Add a tiny splash of sparkling soda. Not half the bottle, not even half a cup, just about a tablespoon or two. Your refreshing drink is already complete, this is just a bonus. It doesn’t really change the taste very much. But the secret is that is turns your water red! Think the color of your drink doesn’t matter? Then why is Starbucks Unicorn Sweet Stack Sensation (or whatever they call it) the number one selling drink this week?

I mean, yeah, I could drop food coloring in there, or wait all day for some muddled-berries to infuse the water. (D’oh, I swore I’d make it through this post without using the word “infuse”). But this is what I did and I will do it again. We don’t normally have this laying around, but we had purchased some for a party last weekend. And we had some left over. And I was desperate to make some kind of not-boring and actually kind of interesting hydrating concoction. So there you go, the secret eighth step. It really does trick your brain into thinking you are drinking something other than plain water. The one we used was Cost Plus Blackberry Pomegrante Soda. But there are lots of other options out there.

I didn’t take a picture of the final product, what am I, a food blogger? So you just have to take my word for it that it looked something like this, only with lemons and more amazing! When the pitcher gets low, just fill it up with water again. You don’t have to add more fruit, unless your toddler fishes it all out, and then it’s up to you whether to refill your fruit. You might have other things you want to get to later in the afternoon!

Let me know if you tried this and if helped bust some boredom!

Photo attributions: cc wiki and pixabay.




Riverstone Chiropractic is conveniently located on Grand Avenue in Oakland CA. We serve patients from Oakland, Berkeley, Albany, Richmond, Walnut Creek, El Cerrito, Emeryville, San Leandro, Alameda, and surrounding cities in the bay area. Riverstone sports chiropractor Dr. Sandy Baird uses their background in athletics and massage therapy to provide their patients with effective and personalized sports medicine treatments, which include Active Release Techniques, chiropractic treatment, deep tissue massage, and rehabilitation exercises. Riverstone Chiropractic - 3409 Grand Ave #5 Oakland California 94610 - (510) 465-2342