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Grounding from an Electrical, Postural, Breathing, and Emotional Perspective

By Heather Carr, DPT, NTP, PRC, OCS, MTC

The concept of “being grounded” is becoming a common phrase that is being expressed these days. The connotations associated with “being grounded” are that it is a healthy and beneficial phenomenon. However, what exactly does it mean? The purpose of this article is to explore “grounding” from an electrical, postural, breathing, and emotional perspective.

The human body is constantly generating free radicals via oxidative reactions which if unchecked can contribute to immune and inflammatory stress. Anti-oxidants that serve to neutralize these reactive oxygen species do so by donating electrons. The earth’s surface has a net negative electrical charge characterized by an excess of electrons. Therefore, the earth is a natural repository of electrons to supply our bodies with anti-oxidants thus mitigating oxidative stress. However, this ultimately requires direct contact of our skin to the earth or the use of conductive sheets/pads/wrist bands (Earthing products) that are connected to the grounded component of an outlet.

Modern living subscribes to a plethora of toxins that we ingest and are exposed to through our foods and environment requiring significant anti-oxidant retaliation. Consider this relative to how the natural human electrical discharge mechanism between the ground and our bodies has become mostly obsolete. Until recently, throughout much of our human existence we walked barefoot and slept on the ground. Our shoes, particularly rubber soled, pose a barrier for this electrical conductance pathway. Furthermore, most of us are walking on artificial surfaces. There are many individuals who never or rarely experience barefoot contact on real earth. This is one of the reasons why walking barefoot on the beach is so enjoyable and relaxing for people. Not only are you experiencing wide open space (in contrast to the typical close-up, indoor, focal work we do on screens) and the natural multi-sensory rhythms of the ocean (as opposed to the artificial dissonance created by modern technological devices) but you are also absorbing electrons from the ground to neutralize free radicals in your body.

In the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, Chevalier et al (2012) describe in “Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons” the numerous health benefits of this phenomena. Such effects of “earthing” that have been demonstrated include beneficial changes related to sleep, pain, cortisol level, autonomic nervous system activity, immune function, osteoporosis, heart rate variability, hypercoagulable blood, and glucose regulation. In addition to personally sleeping on an earthing sheet, as a Physical Therapist I commonly recommend them to my patients, particularly those who are experiencing pain, inflammation, and have difficulty sleeping. Thus far, in addition to myself, my family, friends, and patients have reported significant improvements in these areas since incorporating earthing practices.

From a postural perspective, “being grounded” means your body is authentically aware of where the ground is and its positional and gravitational relationship to it. This is the responsibility of our postural system which is primarily comprised of our visual, auditory, vestibular, and sensory-motor systems. Our postural system and essentially all of the systems in our body, work in the realm of patterns. Our brain-body is a dynamic habit centered organism. Furthermore, our neuromuscular system works in patterned “chains.” This means that groups of linked muscles fire together in synergized mechanisms to accomplish our functional needs to be upright against gravity and move. Our primal human essence of movement is walking which is comprised of two polar phases-being on the left leg and being on the right leg. This has an accompanying predictable neuromuscular firing pattern from the foot all the way up to the head including the visual and vestibular systems.  Each side is essentially a conjugate of the other with opposite patterns occurring simultaneously.  When the left leg is on the ground it is in the “grounded” phase when the right leg is in mid-air, and thus ungrounded. The opposite occurs for the right stance phase of gait.

Our postural system is intimately linked with our breathing (respiratory) system. Just like our alternating left/right walking, breathing also exhibits an oscillatory essence characterized by inhalation and exhalation. When we inhale the front of our rib cage elevates into external rotation as the diaphragm contracts and lowers. This is in contrast to exhalation where the front of the rib cage lowers. During exhalation the diaphragm relaxes as it returns to a upward domed position in apposition to the internal surface of the rib cage (referred to as the “zone of apposition”). Authentic and efficient breathing is characterized by being able to alternate between a full inhale when the diaphragm lowers and a full exhale where the diaphragm rises up into apposition with rib cage. This requires synchronized activity between the abdominal and pelvic floor musculature to control pressure and positional relationships throughout the trunk. These same muscular patterns are also involved in managing the process of walking. Therefore, how we breathe effects how we posture and move. Likewise, how we posture and move effects how we breathe.

Let’s take this a “step” further. When we walk our pelvis and rib cage rotate in opposite directions. This means when the pelvis is rotating to the right the rib cage is rotating to the left and vice versa. When the rib cage is rotating to one side it exhibits a twist in which the left and right sides are in opposite phases. For example, when we are on the left leg our rib cage is concurrently rotating to the right. This means that the front right side of the ribs are in an open, elevated, inhaled state while the left front ribs are in a closed, lowered, exhaled state. The best way to understand this is to place your hands on the front of your ribs and feel this opposing motion when you turn your torso to one side or the other. Likewise, when we are on the right leg our thorax is concurrently rotating to the left in conjunction with the left ribs being in a state of inhalation while the right is in exhalation.  This comprises a pattern of whatever leg is “grounded” the corresponding side of the rib cage is in an exhalation state.  This means that exhalation correlates to the postural phase of being “grounded.”

The current trend of postural and breathing dysfunction amongst our modern living society is characterized by being in a chronic state of inhalation. Many of us are functioning in a stressed out mode characterized by excessive sympathetic nervous system activity and holding our breath. Consider what we do when we are startled or experiencing fear-we gasp! This is in contrast to “a sigh of relief” when we exhale into a calm and relaxed state of being. Unfortunately, this inhalation pattern has become a chronic breathing behavioral habit vs an acute transient one (such as if we were startled by a predator as was the case in our paleo times). This means the rib cage is excessively elevated and open in the front, closed in the back, with the diaphragm locked down in a perpetual contracted state, preventing a full exhalation and thus relaxation to occur. This means poor breathing excursion and airflow. It also translates into excessive tension in the psoas, hip flexors, back extensors, and neck musculature as the diaphragm is fascially and functionally connected to these muscle chains. Positionally, this pattern is typically accompanied by an excessive anterior pelvic tilt, lumbar lordosis, protracted scapula, and forward head posture. This is ultimately an “ungrounded” posture.

Now it’s time to connect our emotional system to breathing and posture. A study done out of Northwestern University lead by Dr. Christina Zelano demonstrated that during inhalation people are more likely to learn fear based memories compared to the exhalation phase of breathing. Inhalation was shown to facilitate the amygdala and hippocampus in the brain (involved with emotional processing and memory) to encode and retain stressful events significantly more than during exhalation. This relationship can also work in reverse where emotional patterns incorporating fear and anxiety can impact how we breathe, our posture, and thus our “grounding.” Individuals who experience anxiety related disorders tend to function in an inhaled state of breathing and its correlational postural pattern. Therefore, anxiety and stress states are typically “ungrounded.”

In order to potentiate one’s ability to be “grounded,” one must consider the behavioral, postural, breathing, and emotional dimensions that ultimately create it. Behaviorally, we can increase our electrical contact with the ground either naturally and/or through the use of Earthing products. We can also attempt to reduce our free radical production in that we have some degree of control over the amount of toxins we ingest and are exposed to.  By restoring appropriate postural and breathing patterns one can improve their ability to authentically “ground.” The method of the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) is heavily focused on creating these grounded relationships. An important component to this is to establish a full exhalation to allow the diaphragm to achieve a relaxed domed position in contact with the internal rib cage. Furthermore, because the diaphragm is part of a continuous chain of synergistic muscles from the foot all the way up through the head, a portion of or all of these chains may need to be re-educated to ultimately create this grounded pattern. This typically requires practicing specific postural restoration techniques so that the brain-body can learn a “grounded” pattern. Finally, by addressing fear based emotional patterns one can also influence their breathing, posture, and thus ability to “ground.” Likewise, one can positively influence anxiety and stress via better postural and breathing function. It’s all connected!

Chevalier G, Sinatra ST, Oschman JL, Sokal K, Sokal P. Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons. Journal of Environmental and Public Health. 2012;2012:291541. doi:10.1155/2012/291541.

Postural Restoration Institute: https://www.posturalrestoration.com/

Earthing Products: https://www.earthing.com

A Dual MD/PT Perspective of the Physics and Physiology Behind Immune Health

COVID-19 research is revealing lung and vascular disease characterized by excessive lung and vascular inflammation with thrombotic clotting. This 17 minute discussion between Dr. Anca Sisu, a certified Functional Medicine Physician, and Dr. Heather Carr, a Physical Therapist from One 2 One Physical Therapy specializing in breathing and  Postural Restoration, provide a joint perspective on how to address both the physiology and physics of immune health. How you posture and breathe has a direct influence on your ability to clear out and move inflammatory debris.

Please refer here to learn what One 2 One Physical Therapy considers to be the most important breathing and postural exercise you could be doing now to support your health amidst COVID-19. 

We are currently offering a special of $85 for a customized 55 min Posture and Breathing Restoration virtual session. Contact us at info@One2OnePhysicalTherapy.com or 571-257-0056 for more details.

We have re-opened our clinic but will continue to offer telehealth services!

We are happy to announce that we have mindfully re-opened our clinic. We will ONLY be seeing patients in person who:

  • Are not at high risk
  • Have no signs or symptoms of being sick
  • Have not been exposed to anyone who has been sick within the past 14 days

If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you must be completely asymptomatic for 14 days to be considered.
We will determine who to see in person on a case-by-case basis and are happy to discuss this with you.

We have very specific guidelines for how patients will be seen in the clinic:

  • Patients should arrive in the reception area at their scheduled appointment time. If you arrive before your scheduled time, please wait in your car. Appointments will be spaced out to minimize traffic in the reception area.
  • Patients are required to wear their own mask and no patients will be allowed to enter the clinic without a mask.
  • Upon entering the clinic, all patients must wash their hands.

All in-person visits will be at our regular rates. We will also continue to offer our virtual visits indefinitely. All insurances are currently covering telehealth for Physical Therapy as they would for a regular in-person visit. If you prefer to not use insurance, we will continue to offer our virtual discounted remote wellness rates ($115 for an 80 min evaluation and treatment, $85 for a 55 min follow-up, $65 for a 40 min follow-up).

Please let us know if you would like to set up an appointment.

We look forward to seeing you!

Register for Virtual Group Biofield Tuning either 8AM Wednesdays or 6PM Thursdays!

It is time to support your energetic health and wellbeing!

Thanks to your positive feedback, we are continuing to offer discounted monthly Biofield Tuning memberships in addition to single sessions. Price is per household — join us (via Zoom) alone or bring your entire family! Sessions are offered at 8AM Wednesday mornings or 6PM Thursday evenings. Start or finish your day with the right charge!

Biofield Tuning is an energy therapy which uses sound to bring balance to all dimensions of your health! Using specific tones generated through tuning forks, this therapy clears congestion and stress in your energy field, also known as your biofield! Your biofield is the energetic blueprint of the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of your health. It envelopes you and is imbedded within every cell and particle of your body.


In today's modern world, your life's experiences can knowingly (or unknowingly!) deplete your energy and leave you out of tune with yourself and your environment. This creates static and congestion within your biofield, leading to pain, stress, muscle tension, and other health troubles.

Biofield tuning works to clear out this dissonance, providing a coherent flow of energy within you. This allows positive shifts to transpire within all dimensions of your health. Recipients report feeling calmer, relaxed, and more grounded after a session. Pain, tension and patterns of emotional and mental stress can diminish providing opportunities for profound transformation in your health and wellbeing.

Purchase Options:
Weekly Membership
4-5 sessions/month (pricing will vary based on the number of weeks in the month)
October Wed 8AM: $85 for 4 sessions
October Thurs 6PM: $110 for 5 sessions

Individual sessions are $25/each

Join us live!
Wednesdays @ 8am EST
OR
Thursdays @ 6pm EST

If you are unable to join us for a live session, you will be included in our intention and receive the tuning of your biofield during the session. We will also provide you with a link to the recorded session (accessible for 1 week).

To Register, click HERE!

  • Select your class and pay online using Stripe or PayPal.
  • Payment through this storefront is required to receive your link to the class.
  • After registration you will receive an email with the class Zoom link.
  • If you have difficulty or this payment option does not work for you, please email us at info@one2onephysicaltherapy.com for assistance.

For more information about Biofield Tuning please refer here.

*** Biofield Tuning is not advised for individuals who are extremely ill as it may create a strong healing response in the system. This healing or detox reaction has the capacity to produce flu-like symptoms, exhaustion, waves of emotion, loose stools, increased thirst, etc. Cancer, pregnancy, palliative care, pacemakers, and recent concussions (within 3 months) are contraindicated in Biofield Tuning. For more information refer here.

Most Insurances are Now Covering our PT Telehealth Visits!

We are excited to announce most insurances are now covering PT Telehealth sessions!

  • Federal and Anthem BCBS
  • Tricare
  • GEHA
  • Aetna
  • Cigna
  • United
  • Some Worker’s Comp plans

Currently, Medicare is not covering PT Telehealth sessions but we are hopeful that in the near future they will. If you have another type of commercial insurance not on this list, we can help you to determine if they have Telehealth coverage with us.

Since March 23, we have been offering virtual sessions and are receiving a lot of encouraging and positive feedback. We have been pleasantly surprised at our ability to effectively:

  • Instruct, modify, and progress your customized exercise program to get you out of pain, reduce tension in your body, and optimize your breathing and postural systems
  • Assist with your own personal home workstation ergonomic set-up
  • Provide nutritional and self-care strategies to support your immune system and manage stress
  • Perform energy-based healing coupled with meditative breathing techniques

At this time, we are now scheduling insurance-based PT Telehealth sessions where our regular rates apply. These sessions are HIPAA secure through Doxy.me.

Please note: We require payment at the time of service for Telehealth sessions, just like our regular in-office visits. After your visit, we will send you an invoice that you can pay online. We will submit the claim to your insurance. Any reimbursement and EOB will be sent directly to you from your insurance carrier (except Tricare, who will send to us). Please be sure to check your EOB (explanation of benefits) for detailed claim information. If you have any questions, please contact your insurance company directly.

If your insurance does not cover PT Telehealth or provides little or no reimbursement you also still have the option to take advantage of our discounted virtual wellness sessions ($45/30 min, $65/45 min, $85/1 hour) rather than submit to insurance.

You may also consider our group virtual live (and recorded) April class series on improving your “Posture, Movement, and Breathing.” This is an affordable and fun way to receive therapeutic-based instruction every Monday.

Please contact us at info@one2onephysicaltherapy.com or 571-306-0121 if you would like to set up a session or have any questions.

If you need us, we are here for you and hope to connect!

Infant CPR Class: March 2, 10:30-2:00

 

 

 

 

  • Infant & Child CPR, Choking, and First Aid
  • Class covers use of an AED (defibrillator)
  • Class length is 3.5 hours
  • Price includes manikin rental of 1 per 2 people
  • This class does not offer certification
  • $60/person, $75/couple
  • Private in-home classes are $200

Click here to sign up!

The Power of Self Care Workshop

Self-care doesn’t have to be one more thing “to do”
Learn how to integrate it EASILY into your life!

Learn how Healing Touch can help you with

  • Integrating self care with current traditional medical treatments
  • Stress, tension and anxiety reduction
  • Pain relief and wound healing
  • Heightened spiritual connection
  • Trauma release/relief from PTSD

Join Char Haskell on Sunday, February 10th
11:00am to 1:00pm

Cost: $40

5236 Dawes Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22311
Please call 443-223-7828 for questions or to register
or email char.bthechange@gmail.com

Are you Getting Enough Oxygen when you Breathe?

Check out this 8 minute video to find out!

This article is going to discuss the physiological aspects of breathing, specifically related to our primary blood gases, oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2). “The Oxygen Advantage” by Patrick Mckweon and “Advanced Buteyko Breathing Exercises” by Artour Rakhimov serve as the primary resources for this article and where you may obtain more information on this topic.

The primary purpose of breathing is to take in oxygen, one of our most vital nutrients. About 90% of our energy production requires O2 and thus impacts virtually every cellular, tissue, and systemic process in our body. A by-product of these cellular energy reactions is CO2 and thus is generally considered a waste product.

Typically, we assume that we need to take big breaths to maximize O2 and minimize CO2 levels in our body. In reality, we don’t need to take bigger breaths or breathe more frequently to increase our O2 blood saturation as it takes very little breath volume and rate to do so. The key element is getting O2 to disassociate from our red blood cells (hemoglobin) and get into our tissues.

The trigger to facilitate O2 to leave hemoglobin and get into our cells is actually CO2!

Yes, we need adequate levels of CO2 in our blood to serve as a stimulus for O2 to transfer into our cells, tissues, and organs. CO2 is not just a “waste product” for us to excrete via exhalation but a potent driver of our ability to fully oxygenate our body!

What determines our level of CO2 in our blood? How much we breathe! If one is over-breathing they are likely getting rid of too much CO2 for adequate oxygenation. Over-breathing can be characterized by taking too big of a breath and/or breathing too rapidly. For example, fast breathing is very commonly seen in asthmatics. In fact, Buteyko breathing techniques (as will be described here) have been heavily used in asthmatics with amazing success. However, the problem of over-breathing is not limited to asthmatics but has become a modernized society health issue as most of us are not breathing correctly. This even includes elite level athletes!

We generally aim for our patients to achieve about 8-10 breaths/minute but we typically find that many of our patients are averaging significantly more than this. On the flipside, some individuals will have a slower breath rate but are taking too big of a breath coupled with excessive belly breathing. Please refer to this video to learn more about belly breathing: http://www.one2onephysicaltherapy.com/blog/the-truth-about-belly-breathing/

Regardless of whether you are breathing too rapidly or with too much volume per breath, either scenario is considered chronic hyperventilation and is taking away too much CO2 out of the lungs and blood.

One breathing pattern that lends itself to chronic hyperventilation is habitual mouth breathing which results in a higher volume breathing averaging 12-15 L/min compared to nasal breathing which is ~ 6 L/min. Therefore, if you mouth breathe you are nearly doubling your air volume with excessive CO2 loss!

Once these blood gas “habits” are established the nervous system adjusts and establishes a baseline point where it aims keep the same CO2 level. The nervous system perceives this to be a “safe” level and is constantly modifying your breath rate and volume to stay within this range. Therefore, if one starts to increase one’s CO2 levels by either reducing their breathing rate and/or volume they may feel like they aren’t getting enough air. We refer to this as “air hunger” as it makes one feel a bit panicky. This is the nervous system’s way of trying to protect you and thus what keeps one ultimately in an over-breathing pattern.

We can determine the extent of our CO2 tolerance/set-point with the following test, which we refer to as the “control pause” or the “BOLT” (Body Oxygen Level Test) based off of the Buteyko Breathing method. To perform the test:

  1. After a regular exhale, pinch your nose to hold your breath and start a stopwatch.
    1. Note-do not take a bigger breath in or out prior to starting the test.
  2. Hold your breath until you feel a moderate urge to breathe.
    1. Note-this is not testing how long you can maximally hold your breath, just until the first urge.
  3. At this point stop the clock. The time recorded is your score.
    1. A time of 40 sec or more is considered excellent, 30-40 good, 20-30 fair, and below 20 poor. It has been found that there is a correlation between these scores and overall health with decreasing health the lower the score, particularly below 10 sec.

Now for the most important part: How do we improve our breathing so we can get enough oxygen delivery to our body?

First, if you are habitually mouth breathing you need to switch to nasal breathing. In addition to facilitating an appropriate breathing volume, nasal breathing has a number of other important physiological effects on the body. Nasal breathing warms and humidifies air for improved gas exchange vs mouth breathing which can be very dehydrating. It is via airflow through the nasal cavity which promotes nitric oxide (NO) production. NO is a powerful anti-microbial agent and serves to sanitize the air we breathe. This can also impact the type of microbiome colonies in the oral cavity and gut which is extremely important for our health. NO is a vasodilator which has implications for improving gas exchange in the lungs as well as influencing circulation and blood pressure.

In addition to learning how to breathe through your nose during the day it is imperative that you only nasal breathe when you sleep. If you continue to mouth breathe during sleep you will essentially reverse all the good training you did during the day as well as reduce your body’s ability to oxygenate. This is crucial for the cellular repair that should be occurring during sleep. A simple, inexpensive solution to ensure consistent nasal breathing during sleep is to tape the lips. I recommend using the hypoallergenic tape, Hypafix, (can easily be bought on Amazon) that can be cut into strips to be placed over the lips as displayed below. Myself, husband, father, and many of my patients are proud mouth tapers!

 

If you are unable to consistently breathe through your nose then that must be addressed first. There can be a myriad of reasons why this is a problem as well as solutions which is not within the scope of this article. However, if you are limited with nasal airflow one thing you may try is a nasal clearing technique described by Patrick McKweon here:

“Reduced Breathing Training,” which is a version of Butekyo breathing has been shown to significantly improve one’s CO2 tolerance. It must be done for a minimum of 5 min, 2x day to have a significant carry-over effect but we have many patients practice up to 30-60 min a day broken up into segments no less than 4-5 minutes at a time. The first step is to take notice of your habitual breathing pattern. How many breaths do you take a minute?  Is there is any pause between the exhale and inhale? Do you take big or small breaths?

To begin the training, using a soft and gentle breath size (which is what your habitual breath quality should be) pause an extra 1-3 seconds after each EXHALE. You are essentially trying to slow down and soften your breathing rate and overall air volume which will gently increase the levels of CO2 in your lungs and blood. This will create a level of “air hunger” and discomfort. It is very important that you keep the intensity of this “air hunger” to no more than minimal. You will likely need to adjust the amount of time you are pausing after each exhale to maintain this mild intensity of air hunger while training. If you push beyond the minimal limit your nervous system will perceive you are in a stressful state and try to protect you by not allowing it to learn a new set point. This amount of time will vary from person to person as well as for a person depending on the time of day, recent food/beverage consumption, room temperature, activity level, etc. After you have practiced this for 5 min go back to your normal breathing pattern for 60 sec and then retest your control pause. It should have increased. If it didn’t or went down then you most likely pushed yourself too hard during the training and need to adjust.

Progress will vary from person to person but generally one should aim for their control pause to improve a few seconds each week. To get a more accurate and consistent control pause, it is recommended to take it every morning when one first awakes. When one’s control pause gets into the 20s there are also walking and exercise breathing techniques that can be incorporated to further progress. Overall, when one is performing exercise the goal is to only breathe through the nose. A great way to work up to this is to aim to maintain nasal breathing during walking and regular day to day activity in addition to at rest.

It is important to point out that certain individuals may need to proceed very cautiously or seek training from an experienced practitioner. Examples are individuals with heart or lung disease, migraines, post-concussion syndrome, any acute trauma, chronic infections, dysautonomia conditions such as POTs, or if you feel worse after trying the technique. If you are not making progress despite keeping yourself within the mild training parameters, there may be other factors that need to be addressed such as environmental problems. Examples are living or working in an environment with toxins such as dust, mold, poor ventilation, too high of a temperature (particularly during sleep), and/or consuming too may processed foods.

Finally, this article describes the physiology related to breathing. However, as mentioned in a prior post (http://www.one2onephysicaltherapy.com/blog/the-truth-about-belly-breathing/), it is also just as important to breathe properly from a biomechanical and postural perspective. In fact, these two aspects are inter-connected with one another. It will be very difficult to maintain appropriate breathing physiology if you are not properly breathing with your diaphragm and vice versa.

By Heather Carr, DPT

Founder of One 2 One Physical Therapy

 

 

Healing Touch: Who is Caring for You?

Self-care doesn’t have to be one more thing “to do”
Learn how to integrate it EASILY into your life!

Learn how Healing Touch can help you with

  • Integrating self care with current traditional medical treatments
  • Stress, tension and anxiety reduction
  • Pain relief and wound healing
  • Heightened spiritual connection
  • Trauma release/relief from PTSD

Join Char Haskell on Sunday, January 13th
11:00am to 1:00pm

Cost: $40

5236 Dawes Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22311
Please call 443-223-7828 for questions or to register

Healing Touch flyer