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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Being High Maintenance

I've always thought it was ok to be high maintenance, as long as you take care of your own maintenance. My husband says it's ok for me to be high maintance because I am "healthy high maintenance."  He's a keeper.

Urban Dictionary gives these definitions:

1.  Requiring a lot of attention. When describing a person, high-maintenance usually means that the individual is emotionally needy or prone to over-dramatizing a situation to gain attention
2.  A person who has expensive taste (re. clothing, restaurants, etc.).
This person is never comfortable because he/she is constantly concerned about his/her appearance.
This person feels they are better than most people and usually judge others based on outward appearances.
3. Requiring much time and many products to keep their appearance at the current level; And/or requiring much attention from others in relationships, romantic or otherwise.
I'm going to pick apart these definitions in the context of health:
1.  Requiring a lot of attention:  For having such developed brains, humans are very poor consumers of their own machines. Most people know more about their cars than their bodies.  You may take your car in every 5000 miles for an oil change but you expect your body to go 2 million miles and than can't quite understand how it could possibly fall apart.  Requiring a lot of attention is not necessarily a bad thing.  Even injured workers don't cost as much when they have a case manager that is good at getting them timely appointments, and communicating.  If you feel cared for, you get better faster. 
2.  Expensive taste:  Companies save between $3 and $5 for every $1 they spend on wellness, ergonomics, and safety.  There isn't much comparable data available for individuals.  If you think that spending a few hundred (or even thousand) dollars on some preventive care is a lot, check out the cost of being injured. A 1999 article in EMS Magazine stated:
•Average cost for a “simple” sprain or strain of the lumbar spine is approximately $18,365 in direct costs per occurrence. (a direct cost example is the cost of a doctor visit, medication, etc.)
•Indirect costs are calculated to be 15-40 times the direct costs. (such as the cost of lost productivity)
•An insurers average cost per “simple” lumbar sprain is $25,200.
•Second back injury is usually more complicated and costs 2-4 times more than the first injury.
 3.  Time and Products: If we were healthier on the inside, we wouldn't need so much to enhance our outside apperance.  I know I don't look so tired when I am exercising regularly, eating healthy.

4.  Relationships:  We all need them.  Just like requring attention is not all bad, neither is having a relationship with a variety of people that help improve your health. The tough part is figuring out who is most efficient and effective at facilitating your health.

Keeping up your body is high maintanance.  You are worth it.  The cost of not doing it is much greater.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Life Quality Consulting for myself

Recently I had the brainstorm to re-brand my business as Life Quality Consultling.  I am determined not to get stuck in the same medical model in which most everyone else works.  We can all do so much better.
I am feeling very blessed to be reading other blogs of people who are living with cancer, or living with a child who has cancer.  Their faith, their efforts to imrprove their health, and their ability to put everything in perspective is humbling.  For some inspirational reading check out Prayers for Caryn and The Anderson Zoo.  I love Prayers for Caryn because they have truly tackled the cancer from all sides: chemotherapy, no sugar diet, juicing vegetables, using an alkaline water system (apparently cancer can't grow in an alkaline environment- doing more research on that!), faith, and prayer.  And it's working well in a situation that doesn't usually get better.  The Anderson Family is a new blog profiling a young mom just diagnosed with breast cancer.  She is just beginning her journey and her writing is very powerful.

My journey to improved health, and quality of life, is a long story.  I suppose it realy started as a child.  Like many things, you don't appreciate health until  you have been ill.  I know many Christians that value the "dark" periods of their lives for making knowing Jesus so much better than it might be if they did not know have that extreme experience.  It is the same for health and lack of health.  You appreciate health more when you have been sick.

My story is not filled with grave diagnoses, dramatic losses of function (well, maybe I had one experience like that), but I am hoping that by my story being somewhat "average" it might inspire you to strive to be "above average"  and keep me inspired to tread forward on this journey.

Before I bore you with my not so exciting story, let me tell you the lesson I have learned.  I am generalizing this lesson to you as well.  I have over 15 years of experience as a Physical Therapist treating some of the most complicated chronic pain patients.  I put in in all CAPS because many days I would like to shout it from a mountaintop.  I am hoping Age Spans becomes my mountaintop to do this, and allow a lot of people to hear it.


I did not know I was ill until I got some treatment and felt better. But first, let me tell you where I now see it began.

I was a very fat child, especially in 4th grade.  My dad just recently sent me some pictures.  I have spent a lot of effort trying to forget those years, so haven't been especially grateful for getting that email, until today.  Everything happens for a reason.  Perhaps it can inspire you.

I am 10 years old int his picture, and my Great Uncle Tauno is on the back of this tractor,  This is probably the day I threw him off of the back of the tractor.  That can happen when you let a 10 year old drive a tractor with manual transmission.

With what we now know about childhood obesity- with diet, inflammation, and toxicity - it is clear that I am not healthy.  Some of that was my grandmother's stash of candy that was always available, because she lived with us.  I now know I have a huge difficulty with gluten, and I was a carb addict.

The thing that strikes me most about this picture is that I am smiling and posing exuberantly.  I don't remember ever feeling exuberant as a child, on the inside, at least.   But I don't have very many childhood memories to start with.  What I do remember is mostly negative.  I think that is also a function of my toxicity.  My childhood was not traumatic.  One of the biggest traumas of my childhood was my 5th birthday party at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor.  A mini marching band came out- drums, cymbals, who knows what else- and I crawled under the table.  I have spent a lot of my life working to come out from under that proverbial table.
I still don't like loud music- am not a concert-goer, and prefer to get my New Orleans music in upscale venues like Snug Harbor, who don't have the philosophy that louder is better.  I prefer a few friends to a ton of friends.

I don't think it was depression, looking back, though it is depressing as a 10 year old girl to not have friends because you are fat, and it is depressing to need a different softball jersey because you don't fit into the sizes.  It's also depressing to have your church choir director make you mouth the words because you don't sing well- especially in the "important" performances, like musicals.  But life is tough.  I don't remember internalizing it in a way that would trigger a depression screening now-a-days.  I do that waith patients routinely.

I thinned out some, but the challenge of being fat as a child is that you have an increased number of fat cells, rather than if you get fat as an adult, the ones you have just get bigger- you don't make more of them.  I majored in Sports Medicine in college, because I wanted to something I enjoyed- and I think I have been drawn into the health field in part to help me maximize my health.  I consider it part of my path and purpose in life.

In Physical Therapy school at the University of Southern California, I distinctly remember doing standardized balance testing, and my results were that of an 85 year old.  I was a competitive swimmer through high school, and even though I could have told you at the time that balance was not my strong point, I would have said that I functioned quite successfully, as a 24 year old, on land. 
Fast forward a few years, and I took a continuing education course on treating lymphatic disorders.  The course instructor was Sharon Giammatteo, PT, PhD.  She would lecture, and then we would have lab time.  The course was life altering for me.  I felt amazing- not even knowing I felt bad before hand.  My energy level went way up.  I lost a lot of fullness in my neck and arms- my shirts fit differently in the sleeves from that day forward.  I thought that I just had big arms because I had been a swimmer.  Apparently, they were full of lymphatic fluid that couldn't drain out efficiently.  After the first lab session, when we went back to lecture, I felt a little bit like Sigorney Weaver in Alien.  Things kept moving and shifting, and it felt like an alien was crawling around in me!

The thing my husband remembers most about this course is that after flying home from it, I spent the entire night throwing up.  It's good to get rid of toxicity, but maybe not so much all at once!  I didn't have a fever- it wasn't a flu.  I know that course, and the technqiues from later courses I took from Sharon have saved my life- or at least my quality of life.  It's not the only thing I've done, but it has been a big part of it, which brings me to another moutaintop shout:


I just thought it was normal to have poor balance, shoulder blade pain, big arms, etc.  Pain is never normal, even if it is common.  You don't have to settle for it.  I don't.

I later developed a clicking in my throat when I swallowed, mostly when my head was turned toward the right.  I would lose my voice and my ears would plug up.  I saw an ENT and he told me I was refluxing up to my ears (despite the lack of abdominal symptoms), gave me a prescription for Prevacid and sent me on my way.  Prevacid didn't help, but a chiropractor who was treating me (also trained, in part,  by Sharon) suggested I go off of gluten.

This was more than 10 years ago, and was also incredibly life altering.  I had no idea it was making me feel bad until I cut it out of my diet and I felt AMAZING.  And my balance got better.  There is a legitimate diagnosis of Gluten Ataxia.  I think I had some mild version of that.  In people sensitive to gluten, it can cause plaque on the white matter in your brain. 

Fast forward to having two babies, 16 months apart, and moving to Japan when they were 8 weeks and 18 months old.  It was not easy to be gluten free in Japan- there is gluten in soy sauce, and soy sauce in all things Japanese.  It was difficult to communicate at times, so I just slacked on it.  I was so busy with the kids, I was at the mercy of a frozen pizza at times.

The outcome of slacking for a couple of years was the development of some very severe eye problems.  I was sure that I had shards of glass behind my eyeballs, and they woke me up in the middle of the night.  I would have to get on my hands and knees so my eyeballs could at least try and get away from the shards of glass.  The whole episode would be 20-30 minutes.  I would affect my ability to see during the day to the point that I did not drive at times (not very convenient with two small kids in a foreign country when your husband is deployed all the time), and I could not tolerate driving at night due to increased sensitivity to light. The headlights of other cards were excriciating- though  not as bad as the shards of glass. The medicine from the optometrist didn't help.  Before I went to the opthamologist, I cut out gluten, and all shards of glass went away.  The opthamologist thought that I had blepharitis- clogged oil glands in my eyelid, that, because of the way the eye is wired, was giving me referred pain to the back of my eye. If that's the case, I have a whole new respect for referred pain.  I also know, from previous experience that gluten increases my secretions (losing voice, plugged up ears), so the blepharitis was just an extension of that, most likely. 

After coming back to the US, I saw an MD who also did homeopathy and nutritional counseling- he was an ENT doctor so understood the eye issue well.  He tested my allergies and heavy metals in my blood.  I was super high in arsenic and borderline in mercury.  He put me on some supplemetns and a diet to starve off bad flora in my gut- no sugar, no alcohol, only brown rice and quinoa for grains, only green apples and berries for fruit.  It was a hybrid of Sugarbusters and Atkins, basically.  I did it for 6 weeks and felt AMAZING afterwards.  I could drive at night without hesitation- the photosensitivity took the longest to resolve.  My first glass of wine after that taught me that wine makes me itchy.  I had always had a persistent itch on my right thigh,w hich I thought was just "normal." .  After I was so much more "balanced" from this 6 week diet, wine made me itchy all over!  Fortunately, being pregnant had changed my taste for wine, even after I was no longer pregnant, so giving up wine was not a big deal.  I had already given up beer because of gluten, and only like a few select mixed drinks.  Thus, the development of my love of margaritas.  I even sweeten them with stevia, and omit the triple sec.  Tequila, Lime, and Stevia.   The other thing that is setting in on me is menopause. I will spare you the details, but the margaritas have helped me cope with that!  But that coping strategy has to change, at least for awhile, as I figure out how it is impacting me now.

So far, I haven't mentioned exercise.  That is my expertise, after all.  When the kids were babies, it came mostly in the form of walking while carrying them, riding my Japanese mamasan bike with one on each end of the bike, and some floor exercises.  After we came back, I have been mostly consistent with exercising- and am now more consistent with it than ever. 

When we moved to New Orleans, I was fortunate to find my tribe of people who do crazy things like grind their own grains, make their own yogurt, breastfeed their kids until they are three, etc.  I've done mostly Paleo diet recently, aside from my margaritas.  Somtime in the middle of last year I developed plantar fasciitis in my left foot and compartment syndrome on both sides.  The PF was painful, but the numbness in my legs freaked me out.  I was NOT going to need surgery to save the nerve in my leg because I was just not going to let it get that bad.  I started doing Crossfit (after doing TRX for months) and it helped tremendously.  I fine tuned my asymmetries in other areas, (PT things- coordination, range of motion, joint shears, etc), got treated by other PTs, and it is now 90% better.  My balance has improved even more. 
However, recently I have been taking my watch of because my arm seems swollen.  I have compression socks for running to help my compartment syndrome.  they help- but I didn't realize how bad the swelling in my legs was until I wore a pair of Japanese toe socks last week.  My sport socks and knee high socks do not indent my leg nearly as bad.  I have a fluid issue- it is contributing to my compartment syndrome but there is something more systemic going on.  Now, I have treated myself, and been treated for this over the last year- but something is still missing. In the fall I made great improvements after reading Edge Effect by Eric Braverman and deciding that I needed some neurotransmitter supplemenetation with GABA..  He was just interviewed by 60 minutes on sugar and toxicity:

I have also had some erratic blood pressure readings and responses to exercise in the last year, as I have undergone a lot of testing in the context of my professional education courses. My BP is alwyas fine at doctor appointmetns, except at my last one.  I was at the OB-GYN doctor and my BP was 130/85.  I am almost always 110/70 or so.  The most bizarre thing was that the doctor looked directly at me and told me my BP was GREAT!.  I don't think so.  Not by my standards.  130/94 BP may be common,but it's not normal for me!  The new thought that 120/80 is "normal" has even been deemed too high of a normal for standard medical practice in the major journals.

My most recent change was buying some alkaline water at Whole Foods.  I planned to cut out (or at least way down) on coffee and margarita.  I ordered some high quality magnesium but haven't received it yet.  The most INTERESTING thing about the switch to alkaline water is that I don't WANT as much coffee or margaritas as I did before.  And I am starting to feel AMAZING again- not thinking I didn't feel amazing before (aside from my legs).  It has almost instantly curbed the drive to consume both of those.  I have had this experience before- I tried some alkaline water about a year ago with a similar experience, and it just hydrates me differently-better.  Elimination diets always make things taste differently when I go back to them.  I can live without most cheese now, as it's not so interesting to me.  I think I must be too acidic....still working on the details but for now the alkaline water is helping.  I can tolerate my watch today, and although my legs aren't perfect, I don't want to "crawl out of them" like I did the other day.  They aren't so numb anymore, but they're definitely not right.

So that's where I am. I am hoping to get an alkaline water system for the house- I have an account with Vollara (see the products section of my web site:  But the big part of why I am doing this is because I know it helps and I want to feel as good as I can.  You may not need the same interventions I do, but we all need to start doing some self maintenance and prevention.  You don't expect your care to function properly without periodic oil changes and tune ups.  Your body is the same way.

The next phase is some supplementation:  I am going to use Re: Fuel (also a Vollara product).  It's an easy, make-everything-right type of supplement:  dehydrated vegetables, probiotics, enzymes.  I'll let you know how it goes.  I semi-regularly take Ambrotose, a Mannatech product, which makes things "right" as well, and it works in amazing ways, especially when I feel cold/flu symptoms coming on.  I get mine from Kim Watson.  Her web site is:

Come see me at the Freret Street Festival on Saturday from 12-6!

More soon...


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What can Age Spans do for you- if you are a woman.

Do you want your physical health to be:
a.  Fragile
b.  Frail
c.  Functional
d.  Fun
e.  Fabulous

Of course, your answer is "e."

Women are good at caring for everyone else except themselves.  When they do care for themselves, it is often in the form of manicures, pedicures, and "retail therapy." 

If you were investing the $25 manicure for future gain- you wouldn't expect much return, unless, maybe, your business is tied to how nice your nails look. 

What if you could get a 300-500% return on the investment? 

This is the return that the Department of Labor and Liberty Mutual state, based on large amounts of data, that companies get on investing in ergonomics, wellness, and safety.

In people of all ages, there are predictive tests for knee injury risk, ankle instability, and development of back pain (particulary in standing). 

Did your bike store measure you to see what size bike you needed?  Did they fit the bike to your body?  Did they set up lasers to make sure your knee is tracking over your foot?  If you have pain while riding your bike, you need either you or the bike adjusted.

Is your golf swing efficient?  Does your back hurt as a result of golfing?  Has anyone checked to see if it is how your are swinging the club?

Pain is not normal.  It can be common, but is definitely not normal.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), 55% of people over 50 have osteoporosis.  80% are women.

What does this mean?
  Certain exercises can make you 89% likely to have a compression fracture
  Certain exercises can make you 16% likely to have a compression fracture

Take home message:  You can protect yourself from many injuries.. 

The NOF website also states:
   In 2005, osteoporosis-related fractures were responsible for an estimated $19 billion in costs.
  By 2025, experts predict that these costs will rise to approximately $25.3 billion.

Save money.  Invest in yourself.  Don't get injured in the first place.  The return on investment is big.

Melanie Weller PT, MPT, OCS, CEEAA, ATC
Physical Therapist
Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Certified Exercise Expert for Aging Adults
Certified Athletic Trainer
(504) 676-4338

Monday, March 19, 2012

Answers you need to know

I remember being a teenager, coming home late, and getting interrogated by my parents about the events of the evening.  In my head I always thought "don't ask questions when you don't want to know the answers ."  
Many people I see are hesitant to find out their risk, thinking that living in oblivion is better than knowing they are in the 15th percentile compared to their age matched norms in how long they can stand on one leg.  Tests like the 6 minute walk test can predict morbidity and mortality in certain populations.  Grip strength and gait speed can also predict mortality. 

You need to know these answers for several reasons.

First, it is expensive to be ill.  For example, falls are the number two workplace injury in people 45 and older, and cost an average $34,000 each.  In people 65 and over, one in three fall each year.  Medicare averaged $9,000-13,500 in payment for these episodes, with a study of people 72 and older costing almost $20,000 per fall.  You can read more of the details on the CDC web site.

Second, our entire system  has room for improvement.  If you doubt me, this New York Times article is a good summary.  Even though the article is 5 years old, the US hasn't generated any improvement in the areas where it was ranked low. 

Third, illness is more profitable than health.  I am on the front lines of Physical Therapy wellness, offering a host of preventive services: injury prediction testing, fitness physicals, bike fitting, video running analysis, golf fitness, and more.  The challenge for the healthcare industry is to make wellness more profitable than illness.  Even the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Cancer Society are dependent on illness to survive.  If everyone were healthy, we wouldn't need them.  Jon Stewart covered this issue here:

The last point I will make is one of self-care.  Most of us take our cars in for routine maintenance, every  5000 miles or so, but expect our bodies to go 2 million miles without a tune up.  Do something to take care of yourself, whether it is at Age Spans, or elsewhere.  Age Spans is a great resource for establishing your baseline, tracking your progress, and troubleshooting the bumps in the road.  I promise to set you free to go do yoga, pilates, kickboxing, running, or whatever it is that fills your cup, because you NEED to exercise.  You also need to know if you are at risk for an injury.  Over 50% of cardiac rehab patients stop exercising because of an orthopedic issue.  That is why Physical Therapy needs to be inside the fitness industry, not outside. (I'll save that evolution for another blog!).  Mechanical dysfunction is predictable and preventable.

Be brave, take off your blinders, invest in yourself, do something to improve your health, and keep yourself out of the system!

Next blog:  What kind of self care you need!

Melanie Weller PT, MPT, OCS, CEEAA, ATC
Physical Therapist
Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Certified Exercise Expert for Aging Adults
Certified Athletic Trainer
(504) 676-4338

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Introducing Age Spans™ LLC

I am excited to change the name of my business from Integrative Biomechanics to Age Spans!  Upcoming posts will have more information on services and our grand vision and branding strategy.  Get ready to Maximize Your Timeline!