Monday, September 26, 2011

Food For Sciatica Pain Management

Much have been written by me over the past weeks on managing the pain caused by sciatica. While the key is really prevention, we can, through over/hyper activities and even through zero activities will cause these problem.
There should be an equal number of people, active and otherwise, having to deal with pain because of the L4-L5 vertebrae which usually spelt as "backache".
I am now a believer of stretching. If there is no pain, be happy that your muscle are supple and well stretched. If there are pain, start doing something. That short 30minutes everyday, even while sitting in front of the PC doing work, or even attending a meeting, could do wonders.
Do refer to my entry here, here and here.
Today's entry is about maintenance and how to keep it under control - food wise.
Sciatica happened when your Sciatic nerves effected/inflamed. Obviously the first thing you should do is to eat food with anti-inflammatory properties. If you rely on self-treatment like myself, there are a lot of sources you can find online with regards to this group of food. Of course, as usual, practice moderation and take everything with a pinch of salt (though taking saltish thing if you have Sciatica is NOT recommended).
A website i did some research on listed down these 10 food. I am glad i am taking some of them on a daily basis if not at least once or twice a week.
1. Kelp - otherwise known as seaweed. But please skip those in snack form as they have salt, flavoring and vegetable oil covering them (to make them crispy)
2. Salmon - rich in EPA, DHA and Omega3. They are expensive and "wild" salmon is a misnomer as most salmon we eat are farmed variety. I get my Omega3 from Chia seed more than salmon. Chia is more expensive than salmon gram for gram and they are hard to find.
3. Turmeric - or kunyit. :) common spice used in Asian cooking, especially curry. Just go easy on the santan.
4. Shittake Mushroom - or Chinese mushroom. Those you buy fresh would be good but those usually sold dried in Chinese medicine hall will also work.
5. Green Tea - This is my MUST have. I take up to 3 cups a day at work. I am sipping this as i am writing this over tea time. There are many variety, i go for the Japanese green tea. They are a bit more expensive and they are more "original" (taste and olfactory). Careful of those common tea brand selling theirs as "green tea".
6. Papaya - It helps with constipation too. :)
7. Blueberries - We don't live in countries with these being sold at the grocery store. But there are alternative such as the Chinese Goji seeds (the read colored seed that is sweet) and dried cranberries is easy to find. Find them cranberries cheaper at baking supply store. I have these as snacks in the fridge. Oh ya, Goji were believed to be able to maintain eyesight ;-)
8. Olive Oil - Make sure your kitchen has a bottle of these. But please don't use them for cooking/stir frying. These are "mat salleh" oil, not meant for Asian cooking. Use them to line/dress/marinate, not to fry. I often use olive oil as a dip with balsamic vinegar. :)
9. Broccoli - There is a reason why your mum asked you to eat your vegetable.
10. Sweet Potato - Perhaps, this is why the older generation, though they performed back breaking manual labor work do not have any back problem. Sweet potatoes are staple during the war period and prized as a form of energy food due to the complex carb and also fiber they have. A winner any day. Steam and go.

Done with the list above, it's easy to integrate some of the food into our daily diet. The above is suggested and they are meant to be "easy to find, easy to eat". Don't forget one more crucial mineral that we do not take adequately everyday - POTASSIUM.
Food rich with this mineral will allow your muscle to stay loose and prevent the tightness associated with sciatica. Food such as banana is laden with potassium. There is a reason why athletes takes them as energy food. It is known to balance off the sodium (as in natrium in natrium chloride i.e. table salt) and prevent cramps. Other food rich in potassium are apricot, which has up to 3 times more potassium per 100gram compared to banana. But banana is 10-15times cheaper. :) Seeds, nuts and tomatoes are rich in potassium too. Don't be too shy to load them up.

From the above, we can already see that eating sensibly and healthily is basic to having a good nervous system. It make sense to cut down on sugar, salt, oil and processed food as much as possible and take in more "whole" food. Apparently, keeping the body acidic level low will help as well. This would require a different level of consciousness when eating and also careful planning. However, it can be a good reference once the above two food category can be part of the normal daily diet. I found a link on the net on body acidity and also a food chart that could help. Read more here
Be surprised to see that lemon and orange are actually "alkaline food". If you are a beer or soft drink fan, you might want to consider to start laying off these sins. That include taking in sugar replacement such as aspartame and saccharin, which has the highest level of acidity.

Now, with these informed choices on food, with the few basic stretching you read in my blog, you have enough information to start managing the pain caused by Sciatica and i wish you speedy recovery.
I know i am already on my way to recovery and all it takes now is discipline!
And doing the cross-leg stretch of course!

Turning Your Facebook into Timeline View

Are you as anxious as me to know how the new Facebook layout will be? The much awaited update that Mark Z himself says it will change the way you look at Facebook differently?

Facebook recently changed their layout and it has caused much confusion to those like me that are used to the normal outlook.

Come September 29, it will be totally different again. So different that you will either like it, or hate it.
I've managed to get the Timeline view with some help from my ex-neighbour. Thank you Viv!
If you are interested, surf on over here to learn just how to do it.
Else, you can always just wait for 3 more days to be in shocked/awe ;-)

Friday, September 23, 2011


Know your rights fellow Malaysians.

Be it you love the current government.
Even if you love the alternative government.
You decide. 
And once it has been decided, pray hard that the elected government will take care of Malaysia the way it should.

If you are 21 years old legally, a Malaysian citizen, love your country, cherish your freedom, want your rights to be protected, and if you have not registered as a voter, it's high time you do so.
Stand up and be counted!
ps- the above video has been banned by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). They maybe like you to view this video instead...maybe they got upset that Pete Teoh's version has more entertainment value.
Ya, we all know which one is better. :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New Stretch For Sciatica

Sciatica Pain Management Again.
The condition has greatly improved and I have felt i regained some flexibility on my hamstring and the back surprisingly does not hurt as bad as before.
Spoke to a friend and he suggested that i perform a simple stretch in the office while sitting down at my desk.
It was simple.
Sit on the chair with good posture.
Cross one leg (ankle) over the other (thighs).
Push body forward (or rather bend with the back straight) and feeeeeelll the stretch.
I immediately feel the pull on my outer thighs and at the back of my thighs. The right leg was surprisingly flexible but i had trouble crossing my left leg over my right.
Once i managed to do that without looking spastic, the pain radiated from the butt all the way to the end of my toes.
In less than 60 seconds, i had pins and needles feeling on my whole left leg.
I was that stiff.
Lets hope things improve more with these simple exercises/stretches.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Spine Exercise for Sciatica

I have written about Sciatica in my previous entry and it was void of photos. Here is an extended update tying the spine exercise with some photos of me performing it.
Sorry about the topless-ness. It was not intentional as i was lying there doing the exercise and wifey was nearby to help with the photos.
Hamstring Stretch
Yeap, i was in pain. I could not even straighten my legs. My hamstring is like strung to 1,000lb/ft, which in return, compresses against the sciatic nerves.
Pelvic Lift
Sore muscle working overtime. So much for being strong.
Half Crunch
Muffin tops...AWAY!
The last one was the yoga like stretch usually associated as a movement with downward dog.  I believe it's called the Cobra.
Grimacing. I was.
After two days of stretching and performing the exercise, the pain was slightly less. There was improvement and i know it's not psychological. It's physical improvement!
Fingers cross, i will be on my top form again, soon!

Testing Twitter and Facebook Button

I've added some script to test out the Twitter and Facebook button for ease of sharing.

Test them out below and let me know if they work. :) It's time to integrate the Blog with the other Social Media application.

Hello Twitter and Hello Facebook.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sciatica Pain Management

Oh My Lower Back!
I have never heard of this term until a friend mentioned to me about two weeks ago when i had severe numbness just from running a short 20km distance. The numbness to the feet, where the feet felt like it will explode was not a good feeling and it came again when i ran 15km yesterday along the usual running route.
Sciatica is a term used to explain the pain caused by the compression/injury to the L4 and L5 vertebrae. It is also known as lower back.
A Vet friend sort of confirmed the symptom again yesterday morning and it has set me out to understand the condition a bit better.
I first had this pain about a month to 6 weeks ago. Coupled with severe upper back pain where i felt numbness in my fingers and gastric due to (previous) work stress.
Fortunately, my medical examination came back as "GOOD".
Somehow we (i hope i am not speaking generally) that does sports are often in denial about our health condition until sometimes, it's too late.
So, where do i go from here to explain to you readers what this L4-L5 spine and this sciatic nerve does without sounding like i am a medical expert just after ONE day of research?
So, Sciatic-iously
Sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body which runs from the lower back all along the back of your leg to your feet. It usually effects only ONE side of the body. If both sides are effected (which is rare), it's called bi-lateral sciatic. I do not have this and it is right now effecting my right leg.
I looked at my running shoes and noticed severe wear within the last two months on the left side. It tells me that i am putting more weight on the left side to off-set the right side when i was running. While no human has the same leg length, i am very sure both my legs are within the tolerance limit of "defectiveness" as created by God.
I am writing this while my right legs are numbing up from some stretches i just did to manage the pain. I can now vouch that sciatic nerves effects the movement and feeling in the entire leg, including thighs, knees, calves, feet and toes.
I had exactly the said parts of my leg freezing up and numbing up as i ran yesterday. It wasn't funny and it was frustrating.
Those of you that run would know how frustrating it can be. It is like having a "waste of time" workout; the lung felt it still has liters of air. The heart felt it has not surpass the 50% effort. But the leg felt like it weigh a tonne. It just refuses to move the way it should.
Sciatica describes the feeling or symptoms of pain, weakness, numbness, pins and needles feeling and even like how i felt - a lost of control over your own body. It is not a disease. It is a pain that radiates from the lower back or butt, all the way down to your feet.
You will feel the pulsating effect as it synchronise with your heart rate.
Mine is running at about 60bpm now as i am typing this.
What causes it?
I went to a chiropractor about 3 weeks ago as i could not stand the pain on my upper back and lower back. I was told my lumbar section C3 and C4 is out of alignment and my L4 and L5 is "pretty out of shape".
The famous alternative medicine praticioner at Seapark Petaling Jaya treated both at the same time, spending likely to be one of his longer session per patients. The misalignment on C3 and C4 caused my right arms to be numb and has no strength. Nerves were pinched as the "burden" of the shoulder collapse onto the spine. In other words - bad posture due to endless hours in-front of the laptop at work.
I used to think that being given a laptop at work is a privileged and a recognition. It says "you are important". Along with it comes crunched up shoulder to try to squeeze yourself onto the tiny 14inch space. You will be lucky if Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CPS) don't get you first.
Along came the L4 and L5. It is a common occurrence according to Mr. Chong (the Chiro). He told me it will take at least two or three session to fix it. Again, bad posture, carrying heavy items (read : Ryan and Nadia), bad ergonomics and possibly a mattress that is too hard or too soft will effect the spine as well.
Simply said - Sciatica is caused when the sciatic nerve are being pinched, compressed etc by perhaps a deteriorating spinal bone or possibly a bulging disc as well. Full medical examination including MRI scan might be required if the condition gets worse.
I was also told to exercise more by Mr. Chong. If only he knew.
The Treatment
I bumped into Jamie Pang at Bukit Aman carpark after a run yesterday and i told him about my pain and how uneasy i felt. With him as a senior runner which was introduced to me, and was said to had the same problem. He explained to me on doing "spine exercise".
When i was doing bodybuilding eons ago, i love "good morning exercise" and dead lift. 300kg on the dead lift and slightly more for shrugs were "not an issue". I thought it will be sometime before i will have any "back problem". I had a thick back. Ever since i turned into more of an endurance junkie, i started shedding away those weights; and i forgot that i have shed away those muscles too.

Plus i was not getting younger. OLD people DEGENERATES.

I was a hefty 90kg Second Row Forward when i was playing Rugby for my Alumni. I could throw a 70kg player up to win a line-out. Nowadays, lifting Ryan or Nadia at 20-odd kg felt i would break my back. Not nice.
As i research into more ways to fight this inconvenient pain, bearing in mind the options for possible surgery, i became even more aware of my body.

The tingling on the little toes that i never knew existed except the pain caused by ingrown nails.

The stretch i never knew at the Achilles.

The burn that comes faster than relatively fast car as i run up an incline.

The numbness and pain i never felt from my butt, along my hamstring, knee, calf and feet.

And i blamed my worn out Lunarglide.

Here are what i read that could possibly do good for your spine, and perhaps, save you readers that is reading this entry a possible reprieve from Sciatica.


Yeap. Stretch. That was what the "Doctors Online" recommend. I believe that was what Mr. Chong meant. if you are not active and has backache, perhaps the easiest solution is to get active.
if you are active, perhaps, the best solution is to stay injury-free by stretching.

Sciatica Stretch #1 - Hamstring stretch
I have never stretched my hamstring. I thought i had flexible supple hamstring as i used to be able to perform split when i was an Taekwondo exponent. I could do spinning split kick - hitting a target twice as i jump and spin in the air with both my feet stretched out in split.
Key word here was USED TO. Guess reality hits hard.
For this stretch, you lie down flat on the ground. Slowly bring one leg up to your chest, hands behind the knee. Now, extend the leg slowly and straighten it. Feel the stretch at the back of the leg.
If your hamstrings is as tight as mine - your legs will shiver and shake as it tries to keep up with the stretch. Hold it for a count of 10 and work towards 30 second. Do not bounce the stretch and hold out as smoothly as possible.
For extra deep stretch, consciously push your toes down towards you so that your feet is like planted on an imaginary ceiling.
I felt immediate numbness from my hamstring to all my toes. The pain radiated from the hamstring and travels slowly towards the end of every toes.
Do it twice a day for as many reps as you can possible performs.
You can do this in the office as well when you sit down - depending on your level of flexibility, you might need something to elevate your heel as you stretch. Keep the leg straight under the desk with the heel as the pivot point. Now, move the body down towards the thighs and feel the stretch. It will not be as effective, but it is a stretch nevertheless.
Sciatica Stretch #2 - Pelvic Lift
Lie down flat with your feet shoulder width apart and knee bent. Lift the pelvic up and hold for 10 seconds. Work towards 30 seconds. Aim to complete 2 sets of 10 reps.
I did this and Oh-My-Gawd i never knew my pelvic and core muscle is so weak despite all the exercising! Needless to say, i broke sweat in a 24degree C room.
This exercise is good too, as it works your Kegel muscle. You will then have a stronger sphincter muscle to hold the shit in should you be stuck in a jam and not drive like an @$$hole. ;)
Sciatica Stretch #3 - Curl Up and cheat on those Crunch.
Assume sit-up/crunching position i.e. lie down flat per Stretch #2. Now, lift the shoulder up slightly and hold it there. It is like a crunch but not a full crunch. At best it's lifting the shoulder up by a couple of inches. This position helps to maintain a proper lower spine position and strengthening the core to support them.
Now, you finally found the "cheat" should your gym mate or instructor commented that you did not do your crunch correctly. You can always tell them that you are exercising your spine. ;-)
I did this and i believe my abs will be more defined as the pain caused my those misaligned L4 and L5 improves.
As usual, do it for 10 seconds and build towards 30 seconds, 10 reps and 2 sets.
What's Next?
I will continue to research more and find out ways to deal with the pain. As a few friends tell me, it will not heal 100%. From now onwards, it is learning to deal with the pain. Just because you are actively fit, doesn't meant it will not hound you. In fact, those i spoke to about this pain and those that told me about this...they are all accomplished athletes in triathlons, adventure racing and running!
if you do not have these pains, count yourself lucky - but do consider to stretch those spines so that you can continue to be able to do the sports until you are 80!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Art Of Shoe Polishing

This has nothing to do to suck up on your boss at work though i admit i totally fail in this department.
But what i am good at is literally polishing a leather shoe to brilliant mirror finish - a skill all RMC boys would have.
I recently bought some leather shoes in Bangkok and i am in the process of breaking into them. New shoes are usually harder and stiffer, especially those that are made to be worn formally. I am not a fan of square cut front or a fan or sharp end shoes. They looked too clumsy and looked ugly respectively, apart from making your feet looked broader or bigger. I am old fashioned as i stick to the usual predictable evergreen normally cut/made shoes.
Here is an almost step by step approach to giving that lacklustre pair a shine of its lifetime. Most important item would be a leather shoe that has stiff surface. Think of the toe cap of a policeman or a military man's shoe.
Next you need to prepare the surface. This include brushing the side "veranda" as we boys call it. Its a must as a nicely polished shoe with dirty and chaffed off sides is as ugly as a Ferrari with a brake-dust covered wheels.

Next you need to get yourself a good polish/wax (Kiwi for me). Most important is that the shoe polish/wax paste has oil and not dried up. The oil is what nourishes the leather and protects them apart from lending a certain degree of protection from wetness or rain.

You use your finger (index) by dabbing it lightly on the wax and "layer" the leather in circular motion (pic above). You layer the surface until the paste dries or fully absorbed by the leather. You continues to do that perhaps for the next 30minutes on the whole shoe surface to layer them up. The paste will fill up all pores on the leather, giving and lending it an even smoother surface to obtain that mirror glaze.

The photo above shows what layering does. You already can see the deeper gloss on the right shoe that is nicely layered. Left shoe is not layered. Right with at least 4 layer. This is important and perhaps even more important than the next step.
A badly layered surface will rub off like dirt on your body. Its the lazy man short cut layering with intention to just thicken the surface. It also happens as the bottom layer has no time to dry before the next layer. Think of it as painting your wall with gloss paint. A hastily layered paint job will peel while a dedicated done layer will hold well and gives a good finish.
Rules of (index) finger (pun intended, as we don't use thumb!) is to rub/layer until you hear a squeak on the surface. Kapish?
So, don't be a lazy bum and spend time on those surface!
Next you need to find an old piece of cotton cloth. Microfiber don't work no matter how expensive. You need a piece of cotton that you can stretch over your index finger without forming any creases. An old T can work, which includes those expensive Pagoda singlet (if your shoe is already a couple of thousand ringgit). For me, i took an old brief (clean one of course) that already has a hole (i am Ironman, i have balls of steel) and uses it.
Next you fill up the cover of the shoe paste with water. It will be essential and not many know of this trick. Unless you have saliva more than tea (as the Chinese would say of someone talkative - like me), you can use your saliva. I will stick to the more hygienic option:).
Then you wrap a corner of the cloth (i am referring it as such though you already know what it is) and ensure no creases or bumps. You roll the excess up and around your hand and grab it. That done, the task to polish it starts.
Now hold the shoe in your palm, with the top cap facing you. Dip the stretched up cloth into the cap of water.
Once done, bring the wet cloth (but not soaked or drenched ya) to the layered surface and start with the same circular motion as the layering. What is happening is the cloth surface, lubricated by water is removing any excess paste and polishing the surface as you twirl your finger!
You will slowly see the shine coming out and it will become deeper and deeper as you constantly hydrate the cloth and move in circular motion.
For every two or three polishing with the wet finger covered cloth, dip the cloth lightly on the shoe paste.
Now continue and keep moving alternating between water and wax on the surface. What this does is it will continue to add more layers as you polish. You will start seeing the shoe polish to grow deeper and deeper and darker.

Hard to believe the image above?
Its easy to do and it comes with experience. I am already starting Ryan to help out. He spent 5mins helping and the photo above shows the shoe with his reflection and his finger.
I shined two pair of shoes today. It was satisfying to see the shoe i will wear to work next week nicely polished to a mirror shine. I believe that a man's pride and dignity will be reflected on the shoe he wears and especially how he will take care of the shoe.

Don't forget to give the shine on all surface. It gives a complete story. Don't just show others your good front, but your good back as well!
I hope this article inspire you to polish your shoes too!
Shoe shown before complete polishing was done.
After...MIRROR FINISH and its not Patent Leather!

Like a senior Old Putera said "make sure you can comb your hair and see your teeth when you smile on those shoe!"