Recently I joined a group of amazing athletes for a training camp held in Thousand Oaks, California. B78 coaching and Human Powered Racing organized a challenging start to 2016 with miles of hills to cycle up and down! I rode with the group, then set up my massage table for a few treatments at the end of the day. One important lesson from the camp was that your body is your most essential tool when it comes to training. It doesn’t matter how fancy your bike gear is if you are dehydrated and fighting through chronic injuries. Massage therapy helps with recovery from workouts, especially if you are pushing the limits of your physical capabilities with an Ironman triathlon training plan. I recommend taking care of your hard working muscles by scheduling regular massage sessions, not waiting until you feel too sore. Working with a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) to develop a treatment plan is the perfect way to maximize your training and racing results!
Clients come into my massage clinic frequently complaining that they have woke up with neck pain. One likely cause is their pillow, either too big or too flat. Back and side sleeping positions are the best for spine alignment, however the pillow height and firmness make a difference. One quick test, if you fold your pillow in two and it doesn’t bounce back to it’s original form, then it is time to purchase a new pillow! Pancake flat pillows do not provide enough support, unfortunately your neck muscles will tense up while you sleep to compensate. At the other end of the spectrum, a big extra firm pillow may exacerbate a head forward posture and irritate the nerves in your neck and upper back. If you notice you are waking up with neck pain and headaches, massage therapy can help relax the muscles and improve ease of motion of the spine. Hopefully you can find the perfect pillow for your restorative sleeps!
Recently there has been more attention given to concussion research and treatment. Concussions are a serious injury and symptoms may last for years. Most likely the person will not lose consciousness or have any visible injury, however it should not be considered a mild incident. There is a cascade of events that happen with a head injury, blood flow to the brain is disrupted and nerve cells may be damaged. Registered massage therapists (RMT”s) are trained to assess and treat head and neck injuries, thus helping to alleviate accompanying symptoms. Your RMT can help develop a detailed plan for return to full function, never rushing back into activities too soon. There are also fantastic online resources for more information, such as the site: Concussion Awareness Training Tool. Your first defence should be to seek professional help and exercise caution.
The SI joints are located between the sacrum, (bone connecting the low back and the tailbone), and the two ilium, (hip bones). The two SI joints are a common cause of hip pain, either on both sides or just one. At the beginning of a massage session I assess and compare the movement on each hip/leg, typically I find there is a slight imbalance in mobility. Strong ligaments and muscles help support the SI joints, however they can become compromised due to our daily activities and habitual postures. There are many sports that favour one foot forward, or even just sitting with one leg crossed over the other can create a twisting and shift of the hips bones. Massage therapy is effective at restoring balance by drawing the hips back into alignment using subtle contractions of specific muscles. Reinforcing good alignment and biomechanics will help prevent future SI joint pain. Core stability exercises, such the plank pose shown below, builds strength and postural endurance for the hip and low back areas. It is possible to incorporate preventative exercises anywhere and everywhere!
It is very common for my massage clients to come in with scars on their body, everything from surgical incisions to mountain biking accidents. Whenever our skin is cut, the natural healing process is for the body to lay down scar tissue. The layers beneath the skin can become glued together in this process, creating adhesions and less functional tissue. The lack of mobility in one area can compromise movement and cause pain, sometimes far from where the injury or surgery occurred. Massage therapy is effective at releasing the scar tissue adhesions and realigning the connective fibres. Massage techniques can decompress the tissue to allow blood flow and nerve supply to reach the area efficiently. Younger scars are easier to treat, however massage helps to release scar tissue and decrease pain in long term and chronic cases too. Restored mobility of your skin and deeper structures will allow you to move with more fluidity!
This is a question I often ask clients when they come in complaining of headaches and neck tension. Poor vision can negatively impact how we hold our head by subconsciously craning the neck forward. It is very common for the lens of the eye to slowly and progressively deteriorate with age, images are less crystal clear. As a result we alter our posture to see properly and strain to read fine print. Massage therapy cannot restore your vision, however it will help alleviate the muscle tension that develops from an altered head position. Bring awareness to your posture during the day and book in for a massage to help with any achy sore muscles!
We have had a phenomenal summer so far on the Westcoast, perfect for outdoor activities and vacation time! Typically, our regular routine is less consistent in the summer months, work and family schedules are more variable. I find clients are less frequent with their massage appointments, however when they do come in they have multiple issues. For example, a client will come in with tight calves from wearing flip flops, achy forearms from playing golf, and a sore low back from sitting in a car for a long road trip. I work my massage magic during the treatment, but it would be more effective to plan ahead and allow for more time for each issue. Even in the summer time, my calendar books up at least a week in advance. I would recommend planning ahead and making the most our summer, staying healthy for outdoor adventure time. Perhaps I should move my massage table outdoors to encourage clients to maximize the hours of sunshine and receive a treatment!
I recently joined Magic Places cycling adventures through Europe providing massages to a group of road bike riders. The cyclists were competing in the Tour Transalps, which is a seven day stage race through the mountain passes from Germany to Italy. It is a very challenging event with a total of 880 kilometers and 20,000 meters of elevation gain! My RMT colleague Lesley White and I gave massage therapy treatments to the athletes at the end of each day. We helped speed up their recovery with massage sessions focused on their hard working cycling muscles to get them through the race feeling good. It was a fantastic experience working with such driven and fit individuals, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Magic Places cycling adventures and Lesley White RMT. Looking forward to next year!
The human body does not like to be static for too long, we are not made to sit all day! With inactivity, blood flow and nerve supply can become compressed and joints stiffen up. Muscles are designed to contract and relax, helping with mobility and stability of the body. The majority of my massage therapy clients could benefit from more movement and stretching in their daily routine. I do not necessarily mean they are required to go to a structured yoga class everyday, but to incorporate little stretch breaks and posture checks frequently through their day. I recommend getting into the habit of taking a couple of minutes to tune into your body and breathe with whatever movement feels good. This will make a difference by calming the nervous system and engaging your major muscles to promote blood flow, There are many different types of stretching techniques and yoga styles, the absolute best type is the one you actually do!