"Stand up straight and tall!" Who didn't hear this as a child? What was never explained was why.
Posture, next to stress, is one of the main reasons clients come in to see me. Though I'm not sure they realize that. Posture while standing, Posture while walking, Posture while sitting at a desk and computer, Posture during screen time... Good posture, or lack thereof, makes a difference to more than your muscles.
During May and June I'm placing a focus on Spinal Touch Therapy as it is probably the most effective tool in my skill set for good posture and encouraging your body to return to that, and hold it. Spinal Touch looks at where your posture is distorted, which muscles are pulling it into that position, and applies a gentle technique that encourages better alignment and posture.
I will be honest here though, while the technique is gentle, you often feel as though you've been hit by a truck afterwards. Here's why...
When we are stooped over with shoulders rounded and chin drawn down or forward our muscles will begin to hold us in that distorted shape. That posture pulls on the muscles through the spine from lower back to skull. The muscles in the front of the chest and neck begin to shorten (because the body, in it's wisdom, views that we're not using or needing them to move better so sends the energy elsewhere to the cells that are using it). In that hunched over shape our digestive organs and circulation are compressed and we tend not to breath as deeply.
A Spinal Touch session encourages a posture where, from a side view, a straight line could run from your ankle, through your mid knee, mid hip, mid shoulder and mid ear. Looking from the back both ears, shoulders and hips are in line.( That's the optimum)
Imagine for a moment how your muscles would feel as they are pulled back into a more open and balanced position, as you stand straighter, how your organs when they are no longer compressed. It's not a comfortable feeling at first. The muscle hurt as they fight to go back to the old posture they've been holding and the organs often release and cleanse as they're meant to. The hit by a truck feeling doesn't last long though (24 to 48 hours) and the results are worth it.!
I encourage you to take some time to check in on your posture each day and where you might stretch or move to improve it. If you would like to experience Spinal Touch Therapy you can book here.
Unlike Massage and Myofascia Release, Craniosacral causes a more subtle "unwinding" effect on Fascia and in that provides muscles more room to move. The movements are light, almost unnoticeable. The effects are amazing.
The first time Craniosacral Therapy crossed my path I was a busy single parent of a 10 year old. While he was really bright and could articulate all kinds of information that he took in, dissect and discuss it, my son always had trouble with writing it down. Any kind of paragraphs, essays, stories...were a struggle. Over a coffee discussion with a therapist who specialized in Craniosacral Therapy for children, my son ended up with an appointment. He felt comfortable right away and fell soundly asleep on her table. She asked me at the end of his session if he had ever hit is forehead and she pointed to the centre.
At 18 months old in his attempt to climb a big rock, my son had fallen and smacked the centre of his forehead quite hard, just beneath his forehead curl. He had a bruise and lump about the size of a walnut come up almost right away. But like most busy toddlers he cried a little and then carried on to again try to climb the rock. I never really thought about it again until the therapist mentioned it.
She said he may notice some changes in the following weeks.
Three or four weeks later was when I was stopped to really think about the impact of this therapy. His grade 6 teacher asked me what Jeff was doing at home that was different. I said nothing I could think of. Apparently he had begun writing essays, really good essays, nothing the teacher had seen from him before. That's when it dawned on me that perhaps the Craniosacral therapy had shifted something. It was the only different activity he had experienced.
Two years later...
The month my second year in Massage Therapy training was to begin I was rear ended in a car accident. I was stopped and the driver behind was traveling at 50+. I remember my head swinging forwards and backwards a couple of times and that I felt quite dizzy and spaced out. Massage Therapy, Physiotherapy, Chiropractic and being used as the model in school for how to treat whiplash, my neck and shoulders received a lot of therapy.
Part of the curriculum in our training was to complete our first level of Craniosacral Therapy. I was excited about it after the impact it had for my son. Part of training is students practicing on each other under instructor supervision. When the person practicing on me started to work around my shoulders and neck, I noticed a lot of emotion coming up and had the physical sensation of my head moving forwards and back with force. It felt real, as though it was happening, but in actual fact my head wasn't moving at all. My fascia though was busily unwinding from the final effects of whiplash and that allowed the fear and emotion from the car accident to surface as well.
Over the next few weeks the headaches I had been experiencing since the car accident stopped and the flashback sounds of metal crunching on metal eased. I had less neck pain and was sleeping better.
As a Craniosacral Therapist
I really enjoy sharing Craniosacral Therapy with clients. While I've grown accustomed to clients experiencing benefits I am always encouraged by the results they have and how it uniquely impacts them. I've pulled it out of the skill set at times when nothing else has been working and Craniosacral Therapy has usually triggered a change that other therapies I practice haven't been able to. I believe it's because of the subtle effect on the Fascia. As it loosens and gains flexibility it seems to begin a deep healing process that perhaps I didn't feel or the client wasn't aware of. Definitely one of those ongoing journeys in learning!
We've been walking on some icy surfaces in Calgary for a couple of weeks at least, and I can feel it in the muscles of your legs and hips! Apparently there is more to come through the weeks ahead...ugh.
What are your muscles telling me?
To avoid falling or slipping we tend to walk differently on icy surfaces. The shoes we wear hopefully have a better grip, but they also tend to be heavier and clumsier than our usual footwear.
Our stance, or centre of gravity should change to feet wider apart and slightly bending forward over our feet to shift body weight where we need it to maintain balance. Hands out of pockets to balance and holding handrails to catch our fall if we go down, shifts our balance as well.
We may hit an icy step and jerk or twist our body to keep from falling. Your muscles tell me all about it.
During 2019 I saw a number of clients in both Calgary and the Fraser Valley for a number of reasons. They brought some similiar issues to the treatment room for us to address.
The main problem being tackled (which displayed itself through symptoms) was a feeling of life being too much, too busy, too much to do, too much to take care of, too many places to get to... Too much was a common theme.
Here are the top 5, plus how we worked together to resolve them:
#5 Holistic Maintenance Sessions
I have to admit that I was really excited to see Maintenance as a priority with many clients this year. Not really an "issue" but a really positive step. Many were taking the view that Massage Therapy and Holistic sessions are not just a luxury, but instead an essential regular part of maintaining mind/body wellness.
In the past, so many clients wait to book in when they are at an overwhelmed breaking point or the ongoing pain has become intolerable. More and more though, are realizing the benefits of regular sessions, to ensure their body is feeling good the majority of the time, and they are more able to deal with life's stressors as they come up.
Maintenance appointments were across the board for therapies including Massage Therapy, Reiki Treatments, Craniosacral Therapy, Indian Head Massage and Reflexology.
#4 Back, Neck and Shoulder Pain
Technology is wonderful BUT it is really hard on the body. For those sitting at desk jobs working on computer all day, students studying, or those with more physical daily tasks, the upper body muscles seem to suffer the most through the past year.
Many mentioned their posture at work as well as repetitive strain issues with daily tasks. Massage Therapy was the number one choice for dealing with pain through the back, neck and shoulders. Included with those sessions was passive stretching to encourage muscle flexibility. Plus we often had discussions about stretching at home along with ideas for better posture so that muscles are not over strained.
I did notice that those coming for regular Massage Therapy sessions through the year mentioned that they experienced less pain and fewer issues with headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms and enjoyed better sleep.
#3 Anxiety, Depression, Overwhelm, and feeling Disconnected
While a number of clients would end their list of what is bringing discord into their lives with a statement of "well others have it worse, so I shouldn't complain", I was quietly thinking "Wow, you are really dealing with A LOT!"
So many have so much on their plates that it's not surprising that the mind just can not keep up, and in it's attempts to do so, becomes overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety and depression. Honestly, I don't think many people are realistic about just how much the body and mind can take. As a society we are pushing ourselves way beyond our elastic limits.
For too long we've pushed those feelings aside, jumped up after trauma to "soldier on", lived in our whirling minds of getting "it" done and feeling disconnected from our body, and trying to pretend that everything is fine, while we're actually falling apart. It can be scary to allow yourself to fall apart, but it can actually create space for things to fall into place.
I witnessed a greater increase in those asking about and experiencing Reiki and Craniosacral Therapy. During those sessions clients experienced a full 60 minutes of peace, loving energy and unwinding.
Taking that time to get quiet left many saying that they felt clearer, stronger and were heading home to think more on what they needed to let go of and the steps they were going to take to put their well-being first... It was amazing to be a part of those journeys through the year.
Whether tension or migraine there seems to be more and more people dealing with regular headaches. Caused by stress, weather changes, computer screen posture, hormonal imbalances with menstrual cycles and menopause...headaches were causing pain through the day, sleepless nights and feelings of fatigue and nausea.
Treatment choices included Massage Therapy, Craniosacral Therapy and Indian Head Massage. All wonderful for creating relaxation and releasing muscle tension, these therapies also increase blood flow to the brain, encourage the release of "feel good" hormones and ease pain.
The most frequent reason clients booked in for sessions was Stress. Stress that was chronic, overwhelming and causing considerable issues, both physical and emotional. Life has just become too much! To much to do, to take care of, to deal with... Deadlines, bill payments, exams, school activities...
Clients booked for Massage Therapy to help release the tension in the muscles that were holding tight and to get the natural space back between the ears and the shoulders (no, they shouldn't be attached to each other). Encouraging overall relaxation so that your stomach will release some of the knots was another reason for Massage.
Reiki sessions were popular to help ease the insomnia that was a symptom of stress. A session to help with deep relaxation in a quiet space. Where the thoughts stop whirling, the breath comes more deeply and evenly, and life feels more in balance.
Craniosacral Therapy to help the fascia that has become tightly bound and to begin an unwinding process, allowing the whole body to just open up and breathe.
Reflexology because many found it encouraged the entire body to completely relax. Relaxation to the point of falling asleep on the table!
So what would be your reason for booking a Massage Therapy or Holistic session in 2019 and moving forward into the New Year?
The majority of my clients understand Massage Therapy to be a necessary part of their health and wellness plans. Thankfully, those that use to view Massage as just a luxury are learning how helpful it can be. What I've been thrilled to witness in the past couple of years are the number of parents booking their teens and pre-teens in for Massage sessions with me.
My own son was 10 when I started studying Massage Therapy and as a growing teen, student and hockey player, he received regular Massage sessions to keep his muscles flexible and fit. Growing pains and muscle spasms were resolved naturally. He was also introduced to a healthy way to relax and rejuvenate during exam time, hockey tournaments and the other stressors of growing.
Sports, technology and studying place the same stress on kid's muscles as they do on adults. Posture suffers from bending over textbooks and computers in the same way it does when sitting at a desk job throughout the day. Neck, shoulder and upper back muscles become tight and tense, which can lead to pain and headaches, regardless of age.
Many clients say they feel taller and stand straighter after their Massage. The head pulled forward and chin tucked over a phone, turns into shoulders and head back and in alignment, with the loosening of muscles. It creates better awareness of just how good proper posture can feel.
With the stress of school grades, bullying, peer pressure, sports tournaments... kids need to learn ways to relax and de-stress that are natural and healthy. What they learn through their teens as coping mechanisms will carry them through the adult years in the work force. It sets them up to succeed.
While they may squirm at first because they are not familiar with the touch of Massage, young people soon become relaxed, calm and often fall asleep during their sessions. While easing muscle tension, massage also balances the hormones that are often raging during these years, boosts the immune system naturally, and encourages positive body awareness.
For the first session I often encourage parents to book young people in for 30 minutes rather than a longer session. It allows them to become familiar with how Massage Therapy feels, provides them a safe space to give feedback as to where they are sore or how much pressure they prefer with Massage. An adult is also always welcome to stay in the Massage room if that is what is more comfortable for a young person. Providing a space that feels safe is essential.
The Neck. Neck pain is one of the most common Massage Therapy complaints that clients come in to see me for. It's such an amazing, flexible part of the body but when it hurts...OUCH!
Tight neck muscles can lead to pain, tension, headaches, jaw pain, pain in the shoulders, upper back and even the upper chest. There are 26 muscles in the neck that help to stabilize the upper body, allow us to look up and down and from side to side, let us bend our ear towards our shoulder, allow us to swallow and talk, and help to elevate our rib cage when we breathe.
It's important to keep these muscles flexible so you can enjoy their full function and mobility!
Technology and Neck Pain
While the technology we have is amazing, it is probably the worst culprit and what brings Massage Therapy clients in to see me the most.
Straining or holding our neck muscles as we look at computer screens for work throughout the day, or tilting the head down to look at phones and other devices, puts undue stress on our neck muscles unless we take time to care for them. If you're regularly taking breaks from computer screens and your devices throughout your day as well as taking time to counter stretch the neck muscles, you may not be having issues. Unfortunately we can get drawn into the job or the conversation and forget to take those breaks.
This Neck Pain, I Just Woke Up With It
No reason that you can think of as a cause, but when you woke up this morning you experienced severe neck pain. It hurts to move it, it hurts to not move it, your head feels too heavy to hold up... Has this happened to you?
Another reason I see clients for a Neck Massage is because of Torticollis (or Wry Neck), a spasm in the neck muscle. It's likely that your neck has been tense and strained for some time but you may not have been paying attention. While you were sleeping you unknowingly moved into a position where the strain became an intense muscle spasm and because the muscle was already strained and fatigued, it's now yelling at you. Torticollis can be very painful.
How Can I Help Your Neck Pain?
Massage Therapy can help to loosen all of the muscles of the neck, shoulders, upper back and upper chest. Clients often feel some immediate pain relief and notice increased flexibility and mobility.
A form of Massage Therapy, Myofascial Release focuses on encouraging the fascia around the muscles to loosen and release. Through rolling the muscles with the fingers, and gradually massaging in more deeply. The tightness begins to let go. Not usually recommended when the muscle spasm is acute, as it often feels too aggressive and painful.
Gentler than Massage, Craniosacral Therapy will encourage the fascia that surrounds the muscles, ligaments and joints to gradually begin unwinding. As the fascia loosens the muscles have more room to move.
Through specific techniques Spinal Touch encourages good posture throughout the entire body to promote good spinal alignment. (read more about Spinal Touch here)
Hot Moist Heat
Muscles just love hot moist heat. It brings circulation to the area and can often encourage the muscles to relax. Getting into a hot bath to soak your neck and back muscles is the best way to apply this form of therapy. You can also place a damp hand towel in the microwave to heat up and place on the affected areas.
It's important to remember that your neck muscles have probably been under strain for a period of time and they are unlikely to completely loosen with just one treatment.
Let's work together to get them loose through regular therapy, some home self-care and stretches. Once loose we can create a plan to keep them that way!
The colder weather is definitely upon us and the season has quickly changed from Summer to Fall. Did you know that Massage Therapy can help you to easily transition between the seasons? There are so many benefits to receiving an Autumn Massage, here are just a few...
Massage Therapy Helps Relieve Anxiety, Depression and SAD
Back to school, sports, indoor activities, the '9 to 5', family holiday gatherings... all of these happenings are good, but they can leave you feeling overwhelmed and fatigued. Decreasing amounts of sunshine and daylight begin to take a toll on your mind and your spirit. Anxiety and Depression increase and can lead to exhaustion.
Massage Therapy helps to naturally balance your hormones. Lowering the release of cortisol (the stress hormone) while increasing serotonin (a mood stabilizer) and dopamine levels (helps to battle depression and increases clarity and focus).
Your Massage Therapy appointment gives your mind and body a "time out". This is a great opportunity to rejuvenate and re-energize so that you can keep your life on track
Massage Therapy is a Natural Immune System Booster
This time of year we spend more time indoors and often in the close company of others, an optimal scenario for the spread of viruses. Preventative action can help you to stay healthy.
Massage Therapy helps to boost your body's white blood cell activity, which strengthens your immune system. It also helps you to sleep better, which always goes hand to hand with staying healthier.
Get a Better Nights Sleep with Massage
A good nights sleep leads to better health, eases depression and is a time for your body to kick into it's innate self-healing mode. Massage Therapy helps to boost serotonin and melatonin production which are key hormones for regulating your sleep cycle.
Massage as a Stress Buster
When stressed our heart rate and blood pressure increase and muscles become tense and tight. Massage Therapy will help to release your shoulders from your ears, lower your heart rate and decrease blood pressure. In a more relaxed state your stress becomes more manageable.
Reduce Pain and Inflammation with Massage Therapy
Colder weather often brings an increase in muscle and joint pain, especially for those who deal with arthritis. Back to school/study/computer posture places more stress and tension on the muscles of the neck, back and shoulders which can lead to increased headaches, jaw tightness and muscle pain.
A Massage Therapy session increases blood flow to muscles, joints and connective tissues while helping to ease inflammation. Greater blood flow and reduced muscle tension eases stress on joints so that they are able to move more freely and with reduced pain. Massage helps to loosen the strained muscles that can become tense with studying as well as increased computer and desk time. Through releasing muscle tension the body moves into it's better, more natural posture resulting in fewer headaches, joint pains and neck strain.
Massage Therapy is for more than Relaxation
Summer is over and it is back to work and school, and after school activities, and raking leaves, or shoveling snow and ... Feeling overwhelmed and stressed?
A Massage Therapy session can help you to ease through the overwhelm and get you back to feeling energized and de-stressed. Plus ease out the back ache that often accompanies raking and shoveling.
Massage Helps to Relieve Stress
Stress can cause your muscles to tense, your heart to beat faster and your blood pressure to rise. All of these trigger your body's natural “fight-or-flight” response which encourages the release of excess cortisol into your system. Massage therapy helps to counteract these effects while encouraging the release of "feel good" endorphins.
Decrease Anxiety and Depression
Autumn brings ever decreasing amounts of exposure to daylight due to shorter days and colder weather that keep us indoors. Less daylight affects the release of both serotonin (mood stabilizing) and dopamine (helps to uplift and to focus) in the body. If you’ve ever experienced anxiety or depression, you know what a toll they can take. Massage Therapy helps to boost your mood and relieve anxiety while encouraging your body to release serotonin and dopamine.
Massage Can Help to Boost Immunity
With the beginning of school days and more time spent indoors it can be difficult to get away from the viruses that are floating about the office, home and school. Massage Therapy has a preventative effect through helping to boost the immune system.
Sleep Better After a Massage
A good night's sleep is vital to our overall health. Without good sleep we get cranky and depressed and our immune system experiences added strain. Did you know that massage therapy has been shown to improve sleep for almost everyone? The increased release in serotonin from a massage makes melatonin production easier and that is the hormone that regulates the sleep cycle.
Reduce Back and Neck Pain
As a therapist I see more clients with back and neck pain at this time of year (save final exams in June). Students are spending more time bent over the books or working on computer, the eight hour workday can leave you with neck and back pain from sitting or being on computer. Chronic strain on the muscles of the neck and upper back can create tension and pain. Massage Therapy can loosen the muscles, improve your posture and increase blood flow,giving your body much needed relief.
Fall Onto my Massage Table this Autumn
Our Body is talking to us ALL the time; it’s our lifelong best friend. It constantly sends us messages about how it’s feeling and through listening to and feeling what it’s telling us, we can make adjustments in what we’re doing to keep it “happy”. With the intention of living a long and happy life with little or no pain, doing all of those things we love to do (like dance well into our 90’s and beyond) it’s worthwhile to take the time to listen to what our body is saying. What it is saying and how it is saying it speaks volumes about some of the adjustments and fine tuning it wants us to make.
Massage Therapy clients are often surprised to discover how the parts of their body are all connected. They often don’t consider that pain in one area of the body may be related to problems in another area. The realization of that connection can often make sense once awareness is created.
Our Spine is one of the key structures in our body, without it we’d be like mushy beanbags on the floor, unable to stand erect and unable to move. This amazing part of us gives protection, support and a base for our muscles and ligaments to attach to so that we have mobility. Honouring the spine’s natural curvatures and giving it the space it needs to move is essential.
It’s important to remember that the spine is just a bony structure and that muscles move bones (not the other way around). Keeping our spine healthy means keeping our muscles strong, stretched and flexible. When we tune into all the ways in which our spine and other bones are able to be moved by those amazing muscles we remove a lot of limitations.
Massage Therapy, Yoga, stretching and strengthening exercises all give our muscles the support they need for us to move freely with flexibility and without pain. Besides good nutrition muscles need oxygen (our breath work) and water (the Brain is 90% water, Muscles are 75%, Bones are 22% and water protects and moisturizes our joints....it’s a key ingredient to keeping us moving!)
In our fast paced way of living we often become unaware of what our body is saying or we suppress (pain killers) or ignore it (gotta get that last thing done) until we have time to listen. Sometimes we become so used to ignoring our body that we don’t notice that we’re moving differently or limiting our movements to avoid the pain they cause...we adjust and limit, adjust and limit and soon don’t realize there are many more ways we could move around if only we were aware.
Taking a few minutes throughout your day, in your normal activities to check in with how your body is feeling will go a long way to make this a natural automatic response and keep you active for many years to come! If you’re not sure book in for a Massage Therapy session and let the therapist help in creating more body awareness.
The two previous blogs helped with protecting and nurturing those hard working, snow shovelling muscles but you do need to think about some Massage care! Here is a special for you for this week!