My Favorite At Home PT Tools

 

I get a lot of emails asking me what helps ease my chronic abdominal pain. Prescription medication never eliminated my pain, only makes it more endurable. The single most effective thing, for me, has been myofascial release physical therapy. It can be difficult to find a PT who specializes in this area but it is so wonderful.

Each person is different so keep that in mind as I explain the things I do for myself!!!

Let me start by telling you my issue. My pain is in my upper left abdomen, almost to the top midsection of my ribcage. It varies from aching, stabbing, searing, etc. Well, 5 years of lying curled up in pain with heating pad took it’s toll on me and really messed up my alignment. It caused my left hip to “upslip” from the crouched position I spent most days lying in. This upslip pushes my hip up and transfers the pain up into my left shoulder blade–a sharp pain. To fix this my PT has to put my pelvis back into alignment. To minimize and avoid my upslip I have tools that I use at home. The following are the most effective, for me. Will they work for you? I don’t know. Each person is different and each body has it’s own issues and responds differently. This is just information that may help someone else out there.

Sacro Wedgy:
The first tool is the sacro wedgy. This thing is pretty great. It loosens up the muscles in your lower back and pelvis. Now this is important: Put a pillow under your head. If you forget the pillow you will regret it, trust me. I lay with legs extended for 10 mintues, focusing on relaxing into the wedgy. This is hard, my body wants to tense up. I focus on deep belly breaths. Then after 10 min are up, I bend my knees and set my timer for 5 minutes. I let my legs relax and allow them to fall open a bit. The I flip on my knees and do some “cat” and “cow” stretches (I think these are yoga moves, not sure since I’m not a yoga girl). For the “cat” I arch my back looking between my legs. Then I arch my lower back,, lift my chin so I’m looking at the ceiling, for the “cow.” Does that make sense? I’m not the best at describing things, I’m more of a visual person.

Si lock belt:
The si loc belt. My PT loves this tool and recommends it to a lot of patients. It took me a while to understand where to place it on my pelvis (it comes with a little picture booklet). This could be due to the fact that I have the world’s longest torso. I had to have my PT draw on me with a surgical pen to make sure I had proper placement. Now I can do it fine. When you put it on it’s important to stand with legs together or lay flat on the ground or a bed when wearing. I wear the belt if I will be doing a lot of walking or extended periods of sitting (long car trips). It keeps my pelvis in alignment so my hip doesn’t slip up and out of place. It really does help, especially if I’m doing a lot of walking. The only annoying thing is it’s kinda bulky and I can’t wear it with my jeans. No big deal since I have lots of leggings.

Pool noodle:
This is the easiest to incorporate into a daily routine. It’s just used to stretch out the body. I lay with my spine on the pool noodle and knees bent. I start with arms extended down each side of my body, palms facing up. After about 5-8 seconds I move my arms up about 45 degrees from my body. Then straight out on either side. Next bend elbows so it looks like I’m hanging on a chin up bar. Finally, arms straight up. Then I reverse, working my way back to the starting position. This is awesome for stretching, it feels so good. Just remember palms face up. My PT says she does these stretches when she gets home from work.

Pilates:
My body is weak, I’m out of shape. Any core strength I once had is pretty much gone. I need to build up my core so my muscles can hold things in place. For this pilates was recommended. My PT explained yoga is more for stretching/flexibility; pilates for strength. She recommended any pilates routine. I have the Windsor pilates DVD series (got them for Christmas years ago). I took a Winsor Pilates class in college and loved it. After college I went to pilates classes but found that I like Winsor the best, for me. But again, any pilates. I know you can find the Winsor workouts on youtube. They are only 20 minutes long but I am s-o-r-e the next day. I could take a class but I like doing it in the comfort of my home.

(Winsor pilates is just a type of pilates taught by Mari Winsor. The instructor of the class I took was a certified in Winsor pilates.)

Where to buy:
My PT has given me tools and tips/tricks to use at home to help keep things in proper alignment. I ordered my wedgy and belt from amazon. You can order the items from PT catalogs but you’ll pay twice as much. Since it was February when I bought my tools I got the pool noodle from a swimming pool store. Then I bought a thicker one during summer from Target.

One final point. The above items, combined with regular PT, has allowed me to eliminate the number of Rx pain meds. Of all the treatments I tried in my medical journey myofascial release has been the more helpful and rewarding.

Any further questions, don’t hesitate to ask (comment/email).

Note: none of the links are affiliate links. They are just to show you the product.

French 75

If you love gin then this is the ideal cocktail for an evening with friends. It’s bets made with Watershed gin because of its tangy taste which when combined with some lemon juice or peels makes an inseparable blend but other brands Tanqueray Gin etc. taste good too.

Ingredients needed

1/4 oz simple syrup ( a mixture of water and sugar heated till the sugar blends in). Cool it down before you add it to your coctail.

½ oz lemon juice

Champagne or sparkling wine

and obviously 2oz Gin

Procedure

First add the lime and the wine or champagne to the gin. Give it a stir and then add in the simple syrup and stir again and voila your evening cocktail party is all set to take off. Simple, isn’t it?

Thomas & Jeremiah

If your home on a winter evening and are looking for a drink then  this is one cocktail you do not want to miss out on. Here’s more in detail about it.

Ingredients needed

You will need 2 oz of white rum. I prefer to use Wray & Nephew for my coctails but you can use some of the other popular brands as well like 10 Cane etc.

1/5 oz of fresh lime squeeze

10 oz of hot apple cider

brown sugar as per your taste

Procedure

Mix together the lime, rum and sugar in either a shaker or a glass. Once mixed slowly add in the apple cider and give a nice stir. To finish of you can use a cinnamon stick or even some fine nutmeg

 

Homemade Muesli

Anyone who knows me (or has been reading my blog) knows that, because of my GI issues, I’m obsessed about what ingredients go into my food. I tend to avoid processed and packaged foods because I must ensure nothing that will cause me abdominal pain/distress passes through my lips. I’m so glad I stumbled upon this museli in my recipe stash while looking for holiday cookie recipes. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of making my own cereal sooner. I adapted this recipe from a one a high school friend shared with me many years ago. Her mom made it and I always thought it was delicious.

I love it because, in addition to being delectable, it’s easy to make and you get control the ratio of ingredients. Love walnuts? Add a cup instead of ¾ c. Not sold on raisins? Decrease the amount to 1/3 c . Add or change up the spices. Add coconut, mini chocolate chips, dried cranberries. I could go on and on. Think of this recipe as more like a guideline; it’s open to interpretation. The result will be a healthy, homemade cereal of all your favorite things.

I love almonds and walnuts; I tend to add a lot of them so I can get more of the healthy fat my body needs. I wanted to add coconut, but I didn’t this time because Mr. Surly doesn’t like coconut. But next time I’m going to make a batch with coconut. I haven’t decided whether I want to add it to the oats and toast it, or add it at the end with the dates and raisins.

This would be a fantastic, healthy addition to your holiday goodie boxes to balance out all the sugary treats. I promise the recipients will thank you and beg for the recipe.

Homemade Muesli
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6 c rolled oats (I always use Bob’s Red Mill Extra Thick Rolled Oats, they are divine)
2 c quick oats (I use McCann’s Irish Oatmeal, the quick cooking rolled oats)
¾ c sliced or chopped almonds
¾ c chopped walnuts
1 Tbl ground flaxseed meal
¼ c honey or agave (or combination of both)
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
pinch freshly ground nutmeg
¾ c raisins (I use golden)
¾ c chopped dates

Mix oats, almonds, walnuts and ground flaxseed in a bowl.

Whisk together honey, vanilla, and spices. Drizzle over oats and nuts and mix gently to combine. Spread on one (or more) baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Place in 250 F oven, and toast for 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes. Remove from oven, add dates and raisins.

Allow to cool completely before storing in an air tight container.

Enjoy by adding milk and eating it as cereal, sprinkle it on top of yogurt, or use it as a topping for a fruit crumble, whatever your tastebuds desire.

Oatmeal Crusted Chicken

I am constantly thinking of new ways to prepare chicken. Since raw meat makes me squeamish, I like coatings on chicken when preparing to hide the sight of the raw meat.

I like the idea of an oatmeal coating. I am trying to eat low gluten to help my stomach bloat and I bought rolled oats from Trader Joe’s that claim to be gluten free. Oats are naturally gluten free, but oats are often processed near wheat, and the tiniest bit of wheat will contaminate the oats and be a disaster for anyone with celiac disease.

These oats from TJs claim to be processed in a wheat-free environment. Even if there was a bit of wheat, it wouldn’t affect me since I do not have celiac disease. But for those of you with celiac or a gluten intolerance, these oats might be for you. I know that Bob’s Red Mill also makes gluten free oats.

Anyway, back to the chicken. Regular readers know how much I like the sweet and spicy combo. The cayenne and honey give this chicken that sweet and spiciness that I love. I wanted to eat my entire chicken breast, but my bloated stomach and gastroparesis prevented me. The topping is so good; I wanted to eat it by the spoonful.

Oatmeal Crusted Chicken
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2 chicken breasts
1 Tbl coconut oil, melted (any oil; grapeseed oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil, etc)
1 Tbl canola oil (again any oil)
Pinch garlic powder
¼ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp ancho chile powder
½ tsp turmeric
¾ tsp cumin
1 c quick cook oats (rolled oats or combo of both)
Drizzle honey (about 1 Tbl per breast)
Canola spray (or oil oil)
Basil for garnish, opt

Preheat oven to 375 F

Add all ingredients, except oats, to a shallow baking dish. Mix to combine (I used a fork), then stir in oats until coated.

Add in chicken breasts, and roll in oat mixture, patting to coat each breast. (you can do this with your hands, but since I can’t touch raw meat, I used the back of a spoon. Drizzle honey over each breast, spray with a bit of canola oil.

Bake in oven for about 30 minutes or until each breast is done, flipping halfway through.

Peppermint Twist

On the eleventh day of Christmas my bartender made for me, a Peppermint Twist so yummy…

I got this recipe from my sister; I’m not exactly sure where she got it. This turned out to be exceptionally good. You can’t go wrong with chocolate and peppermint.

Peppermint Twist
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Makes 1 large or small 2 cocktails

3 oz crème de cacao (dark)
2 oz cream
2 oz peppermint schnapps
Crushed peppermint candies

Put peppermint candies in Ziploc bag and crush into small pieces; put on plate.
Line glass rims with crème de cacao, press into crushed peppermint candies. Shake ingredients with ice; strain into glass(es).

Note: the original recipe calls for the drink to be served in two vignette Port wine glasses. Our bartender suggests either pouring the entire drink into a highball glass or into two rocks glasses or 2 martini glasses.

Vesper Martini

On the seventh day of Christmas my bartender made for me, an (almost) authentic James Bond martini….

Both Mr.Surly and I are big James Bond fans. So when it came to Day 7, I immediately thought of agent 007. We have a bar book we bought that contains the authentic drink of James Bond, with directions straight from Ian Flemming’s Casino Royale.

The drink’s name is derived from Vesper Lynd, the double agent James falls in love with. Russian vodka is used to symbolize Vesper’s ties to the Russians. The orange twist is used to compliment the Lillet Blanc, which is made from oranges and a combination of french wines and is a substitute for vermouth. Our bar book said to garnish with an orange to compliment the Lillet blanc, even though Bond asked for a thin slice of lemon peel. (Click here to watch the scene from Casino Royale where Bond (Daniel Craig) orders the drink).

Bond prefers his martini served in a champagne coupe** but not having those, we opted for a martini glass. I love the look of the champagne coupes, I must add some to my stemware collection.

Mr.Surly claimed this drink; I had a sip and it was really, really good. But also very, very potent, so one drink and you’d be feelin’ real good.

We didn’t have Gordon’s dry gin, but we used Bombay Sapphire which is a dry London Gin, so at least it’s British, which I feel is appropriate.

For vermouth we used Martini and Rossi dry vermouth.

Vesper Martini
the (almost) authentic James Bond drink
Printer-friendly recipe
makes 1 martini

2 oz gin (Gordon’s to be authentic)
¼ oz vodka (Russian vodka to be authentic)
1/3 oz dry vermouth (Lillet Blanc to be authentic)

Shake with ice, strain into martini glass or, to be authentic, a champagne coupe. Garnish with a twist of orange (lemon to be authentic).

UPDATE: We have made this cocktail a lot since this post and I have modified the recipe as below (basically, I just took it straight out of the Casino Royale book by Ian Flemming. Below is the recipe I use for 1 drink.

Vesper Martini
3 oz Gordon’s Dry Gin
1 oz Smirnoff Vodka
1/4 oz Lillet

Put all ingredients in ice-filled cocktail and shake well. Strain into champagne coupe.

**Note** Mr.Surly was able to find Lillet blanc (which is a french after dinner wine) and bought some Gordon’s gin. My goodness what a difference it made to this drink. It’s so smooth you don’t even taste any alcohol. To keep it on the dry side, use just a splash of Lillet. To make it a bit sweeter add 2 splashes of Lillet. Ever since he brought these home he has had one as his cocktail ever evening.

**Update 2: I finally got my champagne coupes. See them here.

Source: Ultimate Bar Book: The Comprehensive Guide by Mittie Hellmich

Phoenix Rising

One the fourth day of Christmas my bartender made for me a phenomenal Phoenix Rising Cocktail…

This drink calls for using Angostura bitters. Not being a bartender, I had no idea what bitters were. According to Angostura’s website, bitters are “a unique blend of natural herbs and spices which is used to flavor a wide variety of food and drinks.”

We debated using it, not sure how easy it would be to find, but we found it at the liquor store for only $7. It was in the same aisle as grenadine, right above the vermouth. It’s a little bigger than a mini sized liquor bottle. There were about 4 different kinds of bitters. It was also in the wine/beer section of the grocery store. You only use a dash of it, so we had plenty left over. On the website they have recipes for food that call for a dash of the bitters; I’m curious about what it would taste like in food.

I really liked this drink, as you can see by the lower volume; it was kinda tropical tasting. I kept sipping it while my mother-in-law set up the props and it looks like I sipped a bit too much–oops.

Phoenix Rising
Printer-friendly recipe
Serves 1

2 oz vodka
1 oz pineapple juice
2 oz ginger ale
Dash of bitters
Lemon oil from 2 large lemon peel strips

Shake ingredients with lemon peels. Pour into ice filled rocks glass.

Need other drinks that use bitters? Try these:
Blarney Stone
Champagne Cocktails
Death in the Gulf Stream Cocktail
Paddy Wagon
Sufferin’ Bastard

Crème Brulée Martini

On the third day of Christmas, my bartender made for me, a classic crème brulée martini…

I know there seems to be a martini theme going on with my cocktails, but I promise there are some drinks served in punch cups and rocks glasses. In fact, I think tomorrow is my first non-martini.

I found this drink too sweet for my liking, but my MIL(mother-in-law) and SIL(sister-in-law) loved it. I was never a big fan of Frangelico because I don’t like the taste of hazelnuts.

I don’t think any of the men got to try this drink because my MIL and SIL kept taking turns sipping it down. It didn’t last long.

We did a rim of festive green holiday sugar, but a cinnamon sugar combo rim would also be delicious.

Crème Brulée Martini
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serves 1

2 ½ oz Smirnoff vanilla vodka
1 ½ oz butterscotch liqueur
1 ½ oz Frangelico liqueur
1 ½ oz Caramel Bailey’s
Cinnamon, for garnish

Shake ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into glass. Add a dash of cinnamon if desired.

Note: A cinnamon sugared rim can be substituted instead of the dash of cinnamon.