All Health's Breaking Loose: Conditioning for joint health

It’s not uncommon to have joint pain or stiffness from time to time. It presents differently in all of us. You may notice it as tightness, pain, or limited range of motion. In order to keep feeling strong and agile or to improve an area that’s giving you difficulty, it’s important to pay attention. Watch your body for unwarranted symptoms of soreness, stiffness or loss of flexibility and act right away to restore it.

Be aware of your own personal body markers, such as your ability to turn your head from side to side or drop your chin down to your chest; the ease with which you take the stairs; or how closely you can touch your hands behind your back. Watch for stiffness in the hips, chronic shoulder pain, stiffness or a hard, tight feeling while pressing down on the muscle that runs along the tops of your shoulders (the trapezius muscle), or even visible signs like shoulders rolling forward or your pinky toe beginning to curl under the side of your foot. Once you notice a small change, you can set a conditioning plan into action.

Whether you are chair-bound or training for a marathon, no matter what your limitations are, a personalized conditioning plan helps to undo the knots and pain that a busy, often stressful life brings. If you’ve noticed some of the above-listed maladies or others not mentioned, then it’s time to design a daily, personalized stretching program.

Floor stretching is highly underrated and is an efficient mode of treatment. Fifteen to 20 minutes a day of gentle stretching can bring relief, and there are myriad other bonuses such as improved sleep, injury prevention, enhanced athletic performance and relaxation of the body and mind.

Yoga mat or not — get down on the floor and see how you do with this basic stretching series:

Sitting with straight legs split apart as wide as you can. Tighten your core and lean forward slowly, keeping your back straight. Hold here and breathe for a series of five slow, easy breaths. Then lean to the side, also for a few breaths, and then repeat in the center and then to the other side.

Draw your feet up so you are sitting crisscrossed and lean forward as you soften and relax the hips. Take a few breaths.

Straighten both legs out in front of you, feet together, and fold forward over the tops of your legs. You’ll feel this in the hamstrings. Try to soften your shoulders, hands, face and arms while you’re here for those few breaths.

Lie all the way back, supine, face up. Draw both knees up to your chest and squeeze them to you gently.

Stretch back out and raise both arms over your head, parallel to the floor so you are in one straight line and reach.

Take your right arm across your chest, draw it to you with your left hand, hold here for five or six breaths and repeat on the other side.

Finish with hands down by your sides, palms up, for a few minutes of meditation. Just release your thoughts and focus on your breath.

This series can be practiced daily and adjusted according to your individual body concerns, level of skill and of course an OK from your health practitioner. Sometimes you have to stop sawing and sharpen the saw. Conditioning often gets forgotten, but it is just as important as exercise.

I’ll see you in two weeks.

Love and health,


LOA BLASUCCI lives in La Cañada and teaches courses at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge. Her website is

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