"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.
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.
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:
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
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.
So you have practiced great body mechanics, or maybe not (see part one here) and the job is complete (for now). Looking after those hard working muscles needs your full attention, now, to avoid becoming stiff and sore or experiencing muscle spasms later.
Nurturing the muscles needs to carry on for a few days and not just the day that you worked them hard. Here are the ideal ways to nurture yours;