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!
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.
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!
You may have seen some athletes with brightly coloured tape on their bodies, what is it? There are a few different types of tape, a popular brand is called Rocktape. As a RMT I have been trained to apply Rocktape when I think it could be beneficial for my client. The tape works by gently lifting the skin, thus changing the nervous system awareness to the area. Studies have shown the skin lift increases blood flow and lymphatic drainage, therefore decreasing swelling. The purpose of placing tape on the skin is to alleviate pain, promote postural awareness, and enhance performance recovery. Rocktape does not restrict movement, it allows for stretch and guides the body into functional motion. It is not the answer for everything, however it can be quite effective for specific cases and it is another tool I use in my massage therapy practice!
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!
Enjoying a golf game or hitting some balls at the driving range is a great way to get outside and be active. Unfortunately, it can also mean new aches and pains, typically felt in the elbow of the dominant hand. This condition is called medial epicondylitis, or “Golfer’s Elbow”. Striking the ball over and over in a golf game can result in this repetitive strain injury to the forearm muscles. Warming up prior to playing is a good preventative measure, but I realize it is not common to spend time doing yoga and trunk rotations before swinging a club. “Golfer’s elbow” usually shows up as swelling and pain on the inside of the elbow. RMT’s are proficient at assessing the signs and symptoms, and performing a few special tests to determine what the best treatment plan would be. Massage is effective at releasing the adhesions between the tight forearm flexors to restore proper function, and help clear away inflammation. Applying ice is typically a good idea, or diving your achy hand up to your elbow into a sink filled with cold water. Have fun out on the greens and try to incorporate a few minutes of warming up before swinging a club!
It is difficult to go a day without a lot of typing and texting, which can lead to repetitive stress injuries of the hand and wrist. One common injury I frequently see with my massage clients is carpal tunnel syndrome, aka your forearm feels terrible. The median nerve travels between the forearm flexors and the wrist bones, but it can get compressed and angry with repetitive actions. Carpal tunnel syndrome may begin as an achy pain in the forearm/wrist, and progress to numbness, tingling and weakness. Aside from repetitive strain as a cause, this condition can arise due to fluid retention (pregnancy), rheumatoid arthritis or other structural anomalies. When a client comes in with suspected carpal tunnel syndrome I assess with special tests to help differentiate from other possible sources of pain. For example there is a similar issue called pronator teres syndrome (a specific muscle in your forearm), that mimics carpal tunnel symptoms. To relieve pain, massage treatments can be very effective at decompressing the median nerve and increasing circulation to the area. Treatment outcomes are enhanced when supplemented with a good self care plan. I work directly with clients providing posture tips, simple stretches, quick strengthening exercises, and hydrotherapy recommendations (ice or heat). It is possible to treat and prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition that is becoming more prevalent as we all type and text much more often than in the past.
What a fantastic way to take a holiday! I recently travelled to Bucerias in Mexico to take Natale Rao’s Myofascial Release Workshop. From Latin origins myo means muscle, and fascia means covering or band. I spent a week with a small group of RMT’s learning and practicing hands on techniques to facilitate glide between muscular fascia. Basically adhesions can form in between layers of muscles and cause dysfunction and pain, such as IT band syndrome or plantar fascitis. We went over specific techniques for common injuries, all without massage oil or super deep pressure. It was an interesting perspective and I can now incorporate the things we learned into my massage treatments for clients with headaches, low back pain, rotator cuff issues, pelvic/hip misalignment etc. Another bonus of spending a holiday for continuing education was a week of receiving massages!