This is the perfect time to reflect on the past year of what worked well for you, and how to make the New Year even better! I am passionate about helping my massage clients achieve their health and wellness goals, and for my students to succeed at becoming future RMT’s. I will be honest, I feel like I lost the balance in life over this past year by taking on a bit too much. I think everyone can relate to feeling overwhelmed and trying too hard to do the best job at everything. I started this blog as a way to build an online presence and to highlight the latest health research. Assessing my past year, I did find it difficult to come up with, and write, about a new and interesting idea for my monthly blog posts. My new goal is to write when I feel inspired, not feel that I am required to post every month. I wish you all a fantastic 2017 with less stress and more time to enjoy outdoors!
Everyone experiences pain differently, which makes it difficult to quantify and treat. As a massage therapist, pain is the number one reason clients come to see me. A detailed assessment helps me to create a personalized treatment plan to assist with alleviating the pain. Hands on massage therapy is effective for resolving muscular tension issues, but it may be more about calming down the nervous system. The brain interprets and processes pain via an intricate network of nerve signals, which is why everyone experiences pain in different ways. A great deal of interesting research has been published regarding the interacting biological, physiological and social aspects of pain. There are many unanswered questions in this complex field that scientists are still exploring. Meanwhile, if you are feeling pain, an RMT can help!
The most common type of headache is a tension headache. The dull achy pain is caused by tightness of the muscles around the head and neck which makes it difficult to perform regular daily activities. Massage therapy is an effective way to treat headaches by helping to release the constricted muscles. There is a group of four muscles called the sub-occipitals found at the base of the skull. These short muscles are related to vision and posture and they are frequently the cause of tension headaches. Interestingly, the sub-occipitals are directly connected to the tissue layer that surrounds the brain. There are specific massage therapy techniques to decrease sub-occipital muscle group strain, as a result dissipating headache pressure. Fresh air and exercise are also good ways to treat tension headaches. Managing stress with outdoor activities!
A simple posture tip is to place your arms at your sides with your palms facing forward. In this position, you will naturally lift your head up and draw your shoulder blades together behind your back. You may notice you are able to breathe easier, there is less compression down on your lungs and diaphragm. During our daily activities it is common to be looking down, this results in tighter muscles of the chest and front of the shoulders. Palms forward posture can provide a gentle stretch of the whole front side of the body, which is good for the nerve and blood supply to the arms and hands. I like to give my massage therapy clients posture awareness tips and little stretches to incorporate into their day. Checking in with your posture and breathing can be a effective way to positively change how your body feels!
In between the vertebral bones of our spine there are shock absorbing discs. With improper loading and instability, the vertebral discs can herniate and push into neighbouring structures. A recent reputable study found that 86.7% of disc bulges in the neck shown on MRI’s are asymptomatic, therefore no pain is felt!?! (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25584950). Radiographic findings do not necessarily mean a terrible prognosis. As a RMT, it is very likely I have massaged clients that are unaware of minor disc herniations in their neck and low back. During the treatment I assess any lack of movement between vertebral segments and I can feel when muscles are guarding around an injury site. Massage techniques help to restore the mobility of the spine and bring circulation and awareness to the supporting musculature. Pain may not always be present, regular massage is a fantastic preventative plan for your spine health!
It has been a common practice for many years to use cold therapy for injured joints and muscles. There is new research that shows applying ice to an injury may slow down the healing process. Localized increased blood flow and inflammation is the body’s natural response to an injury. Inflammatory cells release hormones and other mediators to help with tissue healing. Ice application impedes circulation to an injured area, thus slowing down the recovery process. The latest research recommends only an initial protocol of short duration applications of ice, mainly to help with minimizing the pain. Depending on the injury and specific situation, recovery may be expedited with movement versus rest and ice. If you do sustain an injury, always consult a health care professional as this is a very general guideline.
Proprioception is the fancy term for knowing where our body is in space. There are receptors in our joints that send signals to the brain to sense what is going on without having to look. Balance relies heavily on proper proprioception, allowing us to move fluidly without falling down. If you have ever sprained an ankle, you will notice that balance is tricky even weeks after it has healed. This is due to the change in sensory input to the brain, therefore restoring proprioception after an injury is a vital part of the rehabilitation process. Massage therapy is an effective way to treat the connections between the nervous system and the joints and muscles. RMT’s use specific techniques to integrate the joint receptors and develop better movement patterns. Hands on massage therapy improves and maintains balance, regardless if you have sustained an injury or not. Once you have trained your balance, climbing over rocks and up mountains is a lot easier!
I recently volunteered my massage therapy services at a golf tournament held in Vancouver, http://www.freedom55financialopen.com . It was a rewarding experience as it turned into more massage work than anticipated since there was a major rain delay. The players were pacing anxiously as the tee times kept getting pushed back due to the soggy course conditions. It was a great opportunity to receive a massage, helping the athletes mentally and physically cope with the schedule change. Overuse injuries are quite common in golf, especially due to the unilateral nature of the swing. Most of these golfers adhered to daily preventative exercises and sought out physical therapy for any niggling issues. I was impressed with the golfers knowledge and dedication to treatment, I could see why there were successful in their sport!
This summer I will be running in the Knee Knacker trail race that goes from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove on the North Shore. The course is a daunting 50 km of trails with over 16,000 feet of vertical climb and descent! It is exciting to have a challenging goal to reach towards, the race organizers and fellow runners are exceptionally friendly and supportive. Part of my training plan includes weekly 45 to 60 minute massage treatments for myself. I figure I better follow my own advice for preventative and restorative purposes, helping ensure I get through race day without any injuries. In my own practice as a RMT I see a lot of athletes who come in only when they are hurt, however it is easier to fix an issue before it gets to that painful stage. Pain will change how we run and move, thus creating compensatory issues and a lot more to address with rehabilitation. Before an injury fully flares up, it is best to seek out help and develop a comprehensive plan together to maintain healthy function. Looking forward to some awesome runs out on the trails!
The spine is a complex structure that balances the need for stability versus mobility. In general, the range of motion available in your low back is greater than your mid back. It is ideal to be in the middle range of the mobility spectrum, not too tight, and yet not too loose. Our primary stability comes from the core muscles, bracing around the spine. Unfortunately, when one sustains a back injury, the supportive back muscles can become inhibited and less able to contract. Studies have even shown the multifidus, a stabilizing muscle in the back, completely decreases in size and that space becomes filled with fat tissue. When a client comes in experiencing back pain I assess whether the core musculature has sufficient tone to provide stability for the spine. Stimulating the core muscles and maintaining mobility is part of the massage therapy session, and my home care recommendations. There are plenty of exercises that help to engage the core, stand up paddle boarding is a fun outdoor option!