Seasonal Allergy Relief

We are fortunate on the West coast that spring has arrived early, however that means allergy season for many sufferers. Hypersensitivity reactions to pollen in the air causes sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing and congestion. Massage therapy treatments can provide some relief from these allergy symptoms. Our sinuses are designed to lighten the weight of the skull, help with immune function, and can hold 70-90 mL of air. The mucus membranes lining our four sets of sinuses can overreact to allergens, leaving you feeling like your head is going to explode with extra pressure! Specific massage techniques promote drainage of the sinuses, increase circulation to balance pressures in the skull, and decrease muscular tension. Seeking massage therapy can minimize your discomfort due to seasonal allergies, thereby allowing you to get outside and enjoy the spring weather!

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Nutrition and Massage

With the New Year rolling in people are kicking off juice cleanses and detox diets to lose a few pounds and feel healthier. I am not a big fan of extreme anything, limiting calories and following a restricted diet can be detrimental to your health. It is out of my scope of practice as an RMT to prescribe a specific eating plan, however nutrition is well connected and pertinent to massage therapy. For example, feelings of tingling and numbness could be related to B12 vitamin deficiency, not just from muscle tension or a neurodegenerative disorder. Another example would be clients that bruise quite easily from massage pressure, possibly due to iron deficiency anemia. RMT’s use critical reasoning skills to assess the signs and symptoms clients present with and refer them to other health care professionals when needed. My personal advice is to adhere to a lifestyle and diet of balance, moderation and variety. Your RMT can work with you to help you reach your 2015 health goals!

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Holiday Stress

This can be a busy and stressful time of year for many, regardless of whatever holiday traditions you partake in. Holiday preparations, work deadlines, social commitments, family expectations…we could use more hours in the day! There is no magic answer to the time crunch and higher stress levels. It is a fine balance between your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Increased SNS firing is a state of fight or flight. Short term adrenaline rushes are fine, however days of rushing around can result in muscle tension, headaches, sleep disturbances, digestive woes and overall exhaustion. In contrast, our PNS correlates to a state of rest and digest. This is the time when our body and mind rejuvenates. Massage therapy is an effective way to tap into your PNS recovery time, reducing the overstimulation that goes with fight or flight mode. Realistically a massage a day is not possible, however scheduling in a few minutes to focus on slowing down and breathing fully can be quite beneficial. Self care and maintaining a healthy routine throughout the holiday season is a great way to finish off the year!

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Core Stability

One of the most common complaints I receive at Yaletown Massage Therapy is a sore achy back. There are many possible causes and it is not always a quick fix. I come from a personal fitness training background and typically I recommend developing good stability to take the pressure off of the hard working back muscles. I work with clients to help them engage their deep core muscles to help build their strength and stability. For home care, my favourite exercise is the plank and it’s many variations. It can take less than 3 minutes a day to really wake up your core! On the other hand, sit ups or crunches are not necessarily the most effective exercise since we spend so many hours in our day sitting and tightening up the hips. Core stability means more than just six-pack abs, it includes the back and glutes to balance everything out. A personalized treatment plan including appropriate home care recommendations is all part of my massage therapy sessions. I help clients create a stable core to alleviate and prevent future back pain!

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Postnatal Massage

There is quite a bit written about pregnancy massage, but what about once the baby is born? With postpartum massage therapy there are so many factors to consider, not just physical, but also emotional. As an RMT, I help women transition into the life of taking care of a new baby, and anything that is outside of my scope of practice I refer out to other health care professionals. For example, there are specialists for urinary incontinence and pelvic floor dysfunctions, which are common and treatable. Massage therapy does help with the aches and pains of carrying and lifting a newborn. Perfect posture is difficult, but helping strengthen the core and stretching specific muscles is all part of an RMT massage treatment plan. Frequently parents sustain injuries bending and twisting to place a baby into a carseat, crib or high chair. Prevention and rehabilitation are key. It is an exciting time to have a new addition to your home, however repetitive strain injuries can occur. Fitting in massage appointments for continued care is a good plan for your life with a new baby.

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Foot Pain

Our feet are quite complex as they are comprised of 26 bones, 33 joints, 100 ligaments and 20 muscles in each. Foot pain is quite common with a multitude of possible causes. There are a disproportionate number of nerve endings in our feet compared to their size, similar to how sensitive our face and hands are. Health care professionals such as podiatrists, physiotherapists, and RMT’s, can help assess the specific irritating factors and mechanisms of foot pain. It is important to fully assess and create a personalized treatment plan to be safe and effective. In some cases, pain may be caused by a stiff high arched foot with tightness in the calves and intrinsic muscles of the foot. For these clients, it may be effective to roll the bottom of the foot on a tennis ball for a few minutes to warm the tissues up. In addition, massage can help release the specific muscular trigger points and improve mobility of a rigid foot. On the other end of the spectrum, foot pain may be due to an instability and over-pronation. In this case it may be appropriate to strengthen the specific muscles that are inhibited and weak, the photo below illustrates toe spreaders that are designed with this purpose in mind. To properly prevent and treat foot pain it depends upon the causes and underlying factors. It may be as simple as releasing the tight muscles and strengthening the weaker ones. At the end of the day a foot massage always feels good!

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TMJ Trouble

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) aka the jaw, can become dysfunctional and contribute to headaches and as well as pain while chewing. There are many possible factors that lead to TMJ trouble, stress that results in night time teeth grinding and clenching is one of them. I have clients that complain of waking up in the morning with a sore jaw and decreased range of motion. The muscles around the neck, face and inside the mouth become tight and full of trigger points or hyper-irritable spots within the muscle fiber. Massage is an effective tool in the release of the shortened muscles and can aid in restoring pain free range of motion for sufferers. I can gently treat the muscles inside the mouth right at the joint (while wearing gloves). After the massage session I would recommend some simple home-care exercises and hydrotherapy treatments that can assist in relief. The objective is a pain free jaw!

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Importance of Water

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Approximately 60% of our bodies are made up of water, our brain is almost 80% water! The majority of this water is held in our cells for a multitude of functions. Water is required for transport of nutrients, digestion and elimination, joint lubrication, and temperature regulation. Although technically water does not provide energy, it helps fuel our cells with oxygen and we feel better when hydrated. There is not necessarily a magic number for how much water we should drink, it depends on a few factors such as body size and activity level. I recommend my clients always try to consume enough water prior to a massage, it helps with the elasticity and pliability of their skin and muscles. Basically we should be mindful of drinking enough water throughout the day, it is a simple way to keep our bodies running smoothly!

Glowing Healthy Skin

Do you know what the biggest organ of your body is? Your skin! Massage therapists are very in tune with skin and how we can help improve your health through our touch. The skin plays a major role in protection as it the first layer of defense and immunity. Skin also helps regulate our temperature, produces vitamin D from ultraviolet light, provides sensory feedback, and plays a role in nutrient exchange. Massage is beneficial for increasing blood flow to the skin and gently stimulating the nervous system, resulting in a nice healthy glow!

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Happy Hips for Optimal Function

I just returned from a fantastic week long massage course that focused on treating the hips and low back. We investigated the connections between hip flexor muscle tightness, pelvis alignment and low back pain. The majority of people spend a lot of the day sitting, which means the hip flexors become shortened and do not function as well. It is also common to sit with one leg crossed over the other, or perform actions that are not 100% balanced between left and right. The deeper hip flexors are called the psoas muscles, and they originate from the front side (anterior surface) of the low back (lumbar vertebrae), and attach to the inside of the upper thigh. To compensate for a shortened psoas, the low back is pulled forward and becomes rigid and less flexible. Sometimes the pull is more on the right or the left, causing the pelvis to draw out of alignment. In my massage treatments I assess and treat not just the area that is directly feeling the pain (typically low back), but also the associated muscles and structures that might be the causing the issue. The goal is to create a balance of stability and mobility for the hips, pelvis and low back for optimal function!

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