My Quick Road to Recovery

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I’ve been extremely blessed with only having sustained two injuries in my entire life (the first being three decades ago while at a track meet!). The recent shoulder injury I had was the worst! I wish I could say the injury was from an intense workout, or during a grand adventure, but alas, it was not. I’m not really sure how it happened. It began the morning I left from Georgia (5/20/16) after visiting my son and continued to flare up off and on for a month. I immediately made an appointment with my Doctor but couldn’t get into to see her for three weeks. In the meantime, I did modified weight training (no yoga :-() I grew frustrated, impatient and depressed during this process. I realized how much my workouts are a big part of who I am. I tried various means of alternative medicine (massage, chiropractic treatments, foam roller,
Lacrosse balls, theracane, Epsom salt baths, various analgesics, pain patches, and finally an amazing acupuncture and cupping treatment).

I am happy to say that I canceled my doctor appointment three weeks into my recovery process as I was feeling considerably better. I knew that my doctor would probably merely suggest medication to mask any pain/symptoms anyway.

In retrospect, I am thankful I did go through this ordeal because I now can better sympathize with what many other people go through when they have an injury.

Thank you to the following businesses who were instrumental in returning me to full function in one month:

Zach Hylton Fitness
One Flow Yoga
Heather Dehn, D.C.
Young Hee Yoo, Ph.d
Sherri Battle, CMT
Inge Valenti, CMT
Winston Butler, CMT
Paul Simmons, CMT

For more info re the above businesses, see my Yelp reviews

Self Help Massage Tools!

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In between massage sessions, here a few tools you can use:

Here is a partial list of body tools – (self help devices that allow you to do body work (massage, acupressure) without the need of assistance).

TheraCane – An acupressure tool that loosens tight, painful muscular areas.  You use leverage and slight downward pull to create the desired pressure wherever you want.  This device is especially designed for the back of the neck, mid-back (between shoulder blades), upper back, sides of neck and shoulders.  It can even be used all over the body as a stretching aid.

The Stick – A non motorized massage device used by serious athletes to loosen trigger points (knotted up muscles).  The flexible core with the revolving spindles easily molds to various body contours.  This tool is great for the legs, especially the calves, and can be used effectively on all major muscle groups.

The Massage Stone This device was designed with the professional massage therapist in mind.  It is supposed to aid the hands, not replace them.  The stone may be used over clothing so it can be used often.  J   When heated, the Massage Stone drives the heat deep into the muscle tissues, relaxing the muscles for deeper massage.   When chilled, the stone can help reduce inflammation from a sports injury.

The Trigger Wheel – A 2” nylon wheel on a 4” handle for deep massage.  The Trigger Wheel works on trigger points and be used directly on skin or through light clothing.  It works the way a tire rolls back and forth on pavement. It is very effective in reaching specific sore spots, such as small areas in the neck, hands, wrists, arms, legs and feet.  It’s small enough you can carry it with you and use it throughout the day to keep pain at bay.

The Foot Massage A 2”x9” roller with raised knobs for foot massage, and rubber rings to protect the floor.  A super tool for tired feet. The studded knobs give you pinpoint access to the bottom of the foot.  This is used to stimulate nerve endings, reduce discomfort, and improve circulation. If your job is sedentary, use this tool on the job.

Breath Builder This device was originally designed for musicians to develop breath control; however it is excellent for anyone who desires to develop restorative deep breathing.  You blow into a tube and the pressure of your breath keeps a ping pong ball afloat in the cylinder.  It forces you to use your diaphragm muscles and to breathe correctly, with the goal of increasing your lung capacity.

The Back Revolution– This device is an inversion device which keeps your pelvis stabilized and decompresses discs and works wonders for store, stiff necks. Health professionals recommend using it for 70 seconds, 2 to 3 times a day.  Can help you control persistent back and neck pain.

The Pain Eraser 1 An exceptional hand-held tool that is firm enough for deep massage yet soft enough for more tender parts of your body, including your face.  Access arms, legs, hands, feet, back etc., easily with this high quality massage tool.  1-1/2” wide roller is made of 100% natural rubber with 36” fingers.  Great for travel.

 

Why It’s Better to Be Gumby (Flexible)

Okay, I hate to admit it, but I haven’t always been the best when it comes to stretching, but I have vowed to make it more of a habit from here on in.  As I approach the half century mark the latter part of this year, it has become abundantly clear to me that I need to be more flexible.  I have the cardio/weight lifting habit down, but am seriously lacking in the stretching department.

Since I can’t seem to make it into yoga as much as I would like to, I did some research on some worthwhile stretching books. I have two really good books already, but wanted something new.   I found an excellent one entitled:  Stretching: 30th Anniversary Edition by Bob Anderson I plan to scan copies of relative pages so that I may forward them on to family/friends/clients/colleagues!  If you are new to stretching, or want something for just about every sport or activity you could think of, this is the book for you.  Here are highlights from the book:

Stretching When to stretch?

Before you begin your day in the morning

At the workplace to release nervous tension

After sitting or standing for long periods of time

When you feel stiff

At odd times during the day, i.e, when watching TV, listening to music, reading, sitting and talking

Stretching_2 Why stretch?

 √Release muscle tension making the body feel more relaxed

√Help coordination by allowing for freer and easier movement

√Increase range of motion

√Help prevent injuries such as muscle strains/sprains.

√Make strenuous activities like running, skiing, swimming, and cycling easier because it prepares you for the activity; it’s a way of signaling the muscles that they are about to be used.

 √Helps maintain your current level of flexibility, so as you do not become stiffer and stiffer over time

 √Develop body awareness; as you stretch various parts of your body, you focus on them and get in touch with them; you get to know yourself.

 √Helps loosen the mind’s control of the body so that the body moves for “it’s own sake” rather than for competition or ego.

FEEL GOOD!!

Change Your Workout to Improve Shoulder Posture

One of the most important and long lasting ways to eliminate neck and shoulder pain is to change your posture.  I am sure that you have all heard it from your CMT, but, how can you change your posture after it’s been that way for decades?  The body has already been trained to remain in a certain position and it’s game over, right?

Wrong!  Using the combination of the right fascial massage techniques, stretches and strength training can re-educate your body to develop and accept a new posture.  With postural re-education you will obtain more permanent results than simply trying to remember to pull your shoulders back.

Take Baby Steps

Please understand that the change has to be gradual.  It can be next to impossible to change postural habits overnight.  Clients often feel like they have to change their posture instantly and that they are “failing” every time that they catch themselves falling into their old posture.  I ask them to instead try to have good posture for a total of an hour a day for the first week and then gradually increase it.  This way they can understand that it is a gradual process and that they have a really good chance of succeeding.  Most will be able to do more than an hour a day and feel good about it.

Strength Training for Muscles

The other approach is to start strengthening your muscles. Posture is only partly habit.  The rest of your posture depends on muscle balance.  The chest muscles (pectoralis major and pectoralis minor) pull the shoulder blades forward, while the back muscles (rhomboids, trapezius and latissimus dorsi) pull the shoulder blades back and toward the spine.  Most people are stronger in the chest than they are in the back, which is why they slouch forward.  Re-balancing your postural muscles involves stretching out the pectoral muscles and strengthening the back muscles.

Train Your Back Muscles

By strengthening the upper back muscles, specifically the muscles that bring your shoulder blades together, you will find that your body with its balanced muscles will naturally and automatically go into the correct posture.  You won’t have to think about posture or make any real effort again.  The key exercises for strengthening these back muscles are lat pulldowns and rowing motions.

 Focus on Endurance

The problem with pulling your shoulders back is that these muscles get tired as they lack endurance.  An 8 hour work day is a long time for these muscles to be working against the powerful chest muscles.  When strengthening your postural back muscles, build endurance by lowering the weight and working up to sets of 16 or more reps.

Take it Easy on Your Chest

Most people that work out love spending time on their pecs.  Men love the strong, masculine look that a defined set of pecs give, while women like how it firms and lifts the breasts.  Remember though, although aesthetically pleasing, that strong, short, tight pec muscles are a big reason for our bad posture.  These muscles shorten with repeated slouching and hunching over our computers.  Strengthening these muscles further shorten them and worsen our posture.  You can still work on your chest in a workout, but you will need to adjust your approach:

  1. Lower the weight you are using.
  2. If you can, work the pec fly machine vs the bench press.  The pec fly works the pecs through its full range of motion including the stretched out end range.
  3. Stretch your pecs before and after every set.  Pec stretches will lengthen the pec muscles and keep them from going into spasm.

A Second Look at the Elliptical

Most people use the elliptical by focusing on powering through with their legs while their arms limply hold onto the handles and swing. This is good for cardio training and working the legs, but if you want to improve your posture and get rid of your neck pain, try using the elliptical in the following way.

  1. The key is to focus on what you your upper body is doing.  Try shifting all the work from the legs to the upper body.  It may be difficult in the beginning and you may need to alternate between focusing on the upper body and focusing on the lower body.
  2. There are 2 phases: pulling the handle back and pushing the handle forward.  To work your postural muscles, put all your effort into the pulling back phase while using the pushing forward phase to rest.
  3. When working the upper body, don’t allow the arms to do all the work.  Focus on your shoulder blade.  It should be either moving outward or pulling inward toward the centre of your back.  The more your shoulder blades are moving, the more you are working out your postural muscles.
  4. When you pull back on the handle, try to pull your shoulder blade toward your spine.  This works the rhomboid, lats, and middle and lower traps: the postural muscles that help pull your shoulders back.
  5. During the rest phase when the handle is going forward, don’t apply too much effort on the arm, but try to detract your shoulder blade and slide it out and forward for a nice stretch.
  6. This exercise is great because there is a lot of repetition which builds endurance in your postural muscles.  When those back muscles become as strong as, or stronger than the front muscles, your shoulders will automatically begin pulling your shoulders back on their own.

Good posture, naturally – YAY!!!

 

Major Causes of Neck Pain

According to several studies, about 67 percent of adults experience severe neck and shoulder pain in their lifetime. As a CMT, I would have guessed the actual number is much higher than this. As it turns out, neck pain is one of the primary reasons people visit their physician. Unfortunately, many people don’t know what causes this pain and as a result they do not know how to prevent and relieve it. Below is a summary of a few of the major causes of neck and shoulder pain.

Stress

Stress causes your muscles to tense up and contract, which leaves them feeling stiff and sore, which makes emotional stress the leading culprit of neck and shoulder pain. We often remember the old saying, “he’s carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders”, oddly enough that is the body’s physiological response to stress. It is important to take a significant amount of time of each day to relax, meditate or do something enjoyable for you. Take a warm bath, read a good book, listen to some music or even watch your favorite television show.

Muscle Strain

Daily heavy lifting and strenuous exercise can cause over-stretched and over-contracted muscles in the neck and shoulders. To prevent pain in this area when working out, it’s important to know your limits.  This also applies to moving and lifting heavy items either on your own time, or at work.

Sleeping

Sleeping in a bad position can cause you to wake up with a crick in the neck. Assuming most of us get between 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, this leaves certain muscles contracted for that entire period. Think about how sore other muscles in your body feel when you use them for hours at a time. That is what causes the severe pain and immobility in the neck the morning after a night sleeping on your stomach with your head turned to one side.

Sitting at a Desk

People who spend a majority of their work day in front of a computer often have neck and shoulder pain because computer monitors are rarely aligned with the person’s eyes. This means that the person must tilt their head up or down to see the screen which puts an enormous amount of stress on the neck. Always adjust your monitor so the center of it is level with your eyes when working on a computer.

Trigger points

Trigger points cause pain more often than any other condition, and are drastically under-diagnosed due to the lack of information about them. Trigger points are hypersensitive areas in muscle that suffer from decreased circulation, increased contraction and spasm. Poor circulation causes a buildup of toxins and increased nerve sensitivity that manifests in the body as a low ache or a sharp pain.  When someone has an active trigger point in a muscle it can cause pain in that muscle or often it can refer pain to another area in the body.

The most common referred pain is in the form of headaches, shoulder and neck pain caused from trigger points in the back of the neck, shoulder and upper back. Such trigger points can remain dormant for very long periods of time but will eventually cause spasm or pain.  Many headaches (including migraines) are caused from these trigger points referring sensation into certain areas of the head.  While most headache symptoms usually are treated with painkillers, though the underlying cause is almost never addressed.

Though the causes of neck and shoulder pain are diverse, there is one common cure for all of them, and it does not involve medicine.  GET A MASSAGE! Almost all of the causes of neck and shoulder pain (even headaches) are muscular.  So put down the anti-inflammatory meds and call your local massage therapist ASAP!!! Reduce stress, lengthen and stretch those muscles, improve your circulation, and get rid of those trigger points.  It may take scheduling a few sessions to get you feeling back to normal, but you will feel the difference immediately.

 

Proper Posture & Ergonomics for Work & School

Don’t just sit there…. Get to work!”  used to be a familiar sound from the boss.  These days, however, most all of our jobs are sedentary.

As you can imagine, spending 8 hours a day in one position is not ideal for our bodies.  Improper sitting can subject your body to unnecessary stress that may eventually lead to pain and discomfort in the neck, shoulder or low back. Ouch!  Here are some tips to reduce discomfort:

  • Don’t remain in one position for long periods of time. Try standing up or walking around about every 20 minutes. This routine can be incorporated into your work schedule by taking phones calls, filing or reading while standing up rather than sitting. Try delivering a message to a co-worker in person rather than e-mailing or using inter-office mail.
  • Try using the hands-free option on your telephone or a headset rather than holding the phone to your ear with your shoulder as this practice over time can lead to neck and shoulder strain.
  • Listen to your body. When you feel tension or stress in certain area of your body like the neck, back and shoulders, change positions or try some gentle stretching exercises

Position your chair at a height where:

  1. The work surface is “elbow high.”
  2. Your feet are comfortably positioned flat on the floor
  3. When working, your elbows & knees are bent at 90 degree angles

If your chair is not adjustable, use a foot rest such as a phone book to attain this more ideal position

Position the height of your computer screen:

  1. Sit comfortably in your newly adjusted chair
  2. Close your eyes and relax, then, slowly reopen them.
  3. Where you first gaze as you open your eyes is the place to put the center of your screen

You can raise the height with books or a stand if needed.

Prevent Arthritis Pain!!

I subscribe to the idea of using the food we eat as medicine to keep the body healthy. I was motivated to look up foods that prevent or ease arthritis because it seems to be an issue for many.

Following is a list of 7 types of food to prevent arthritis pain:
1) Green tea
2) foods with Omega-3 fatty acids
3) olive oil
4) food rich in beta carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin
5) foods rich in Vitamin C
6) antioxidant-rich food containing the anthocyanins
7) and food containing spices of turmeric and ginger

And for every list of “do’s” there is a list of “don’ts.” Avoid the foods if you have arthritis:
1) saturated fats
2) trans fats
3) fried food in general
4) refined carbohydrates
5) and foods high in simple sugars

 

 

 

Relieve the Discomfort of Airplane Travel

 

I thought I’d share a few tips on how to cope with all the hours of sitting in a cramped little seat with the tiny fork and knife set, the tiny meal, served in the tiny dishes, with the tiny drink in the tiny cup.

When traveling, your biggest enemies are inactivity and improper posture.  The combination of them both leads to soreness/stiffness in the lower back, legs, shoulders or neck.  Here are a few helpful tips:

Use Your Pillows &  Blankets

  1. This step should help to reduce the postural strain that improper sitting places on your body.
  2. Sit with your hips back against the back of the seat to get the maximum support from the seat.
  3. Place the blanket or pillow (personally, I prefer to fold the blanket in half) between the small of your back (the curve just above your hips) and the seat back.  This will help support your lower back in its natural curve and reduce low back pain.  It is especially helpful if you are suffering from any disc related issues.
  4. Place the pillow behind your neck and keep the back of your head rested firmly against the headrest so that you can feel your neck being supported.  This helps to keep your neck in its neutral curved position and reduces neck stiffness.
  5. If you follow these steps you should feel like your upper body is fully supported in a more natural position.  You should feel less strain or discomfort in this position

Get some exercise

  1. Too much rest is not a good thing.  All that sitting without any real movement can make you achy and stiff.  The perfect solution is a bit of exercise.  Any simple exercise or movement helps increase blood flow and lubricate your joints.  Improved blood flow nourishes and oxygenates your body’s tissues and helps in waste removal, leaving you feeling healthier and more refreshed.
  2. Get up and walk around.  Use any excuse to go for a walk:  Get a glass of water; Go to the bathroom; take a tour of the cabin; see what movies everyone else is watching; or as they say in the Dead Poet’s Society, view life from a different perspective!
  3. You will probably feel pretty stiff the first time you get up.  This is a sign that you should be getting up more often!

 Choose your seat wisely

  1. Make sure you get an aisle seat.  All that getting up and walking around is never going to happen if you are stuck in the middle of a long row between 6 very close strangers.   Make it easy for yourself to get up regularly without annoying your neighbors.
  2. The aisle seat also means that you have to get up every time one of your neighbors wants out, but if you’re not big on sleeping on flights, being forced to get up is a bit of a bonus and the perfect chance to stretch out a bit.
  3. Don’t take all the aisle seats!  Leave at least one for me unless you want to see me get cranky

Use your time between flights

  1. If you have a few hour layover between flights, take the chance to walk around.  A good solid hour of walking can do wonders to reverse all the damage that sitting for 6 hours does to your body.
  2. Shop.  Not up for a brisk walk?  How about a leisurely stroll through the airport shops?

Beware Deep Vein Thrombosis

  1. Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that can form in your calf.  It may feel like a bit of pain or swelling in your calf.  This is only mildly annoying, but if left untreated can result in the clot breaking free and blocking the blood supply to your heart or brain.  If you feel soreness and swelling in a calf muscle after a flight, consult your doctor.  The typical treatment is a round of blood thinners to gently break down the clot.
  2. The lower air pressure combined with inactivity and sitting increases your chances of getting deep vein thrombosis. Seniors or women using the birth control pill are especially at risk.
  3. One solution for preventing the deep vein thrombosis from forming is exercise.  It is much more difficult for a clot to form if you are moving about.  Get up and walk around every now and then to keep the blood flowing in your legs.
  4. Try calf raises.  While you are seated you can practise going up on your tippy toes and back down again.  The constant flexion and relaxation of your calf muscles act like a pump and move the blood faster through  the calf.
  5. An Aspirin a day.  Aspirin is a blood thinner in addition to being good for a variety of other ailments.  If you doctor agrees with it and believes you are healthy enough for it, take aspirin daily for 3 to 4 days before your flight.  Remember to be sure to consult with your doctor before you try this.

Additional tips

  1. The air is pretty dry in the cabin, so keep drinking water to keep yourself hydrated.
  2. Try the in flight exercises.  Most planes have neck and shoulder exercise routines available in their in flight magazines.  Try them out.  These exercises might look a little silly, but they definitely help.

 

Hot or cold compresses for achy muscles/ joints?

Both hot and cold compresses can ease pain, but the trick is knowing which one to use when. Any time you have a sudden onset of discomfort (either from a new injury or a flare-up of an existing one), apply a cold pack for 20 minutes, several times a day. Icing the area decreases blood flow to the injured region, which helps prevent swelling and reduce soreness. Ice is nature’s anti-inflammatory, and with all the controversy over pain medication these days, it’s a inexpensive, safe, smart choice. If you live with chronic achy pain from back pain or arthritis, heat is better; it increases blood circulation, soothing muscles and stiff joints. Many of my clients rave about the one-use disposable heat pads and wraps available at the drugstore—you simply stick them on and go.

Find Painful Muscle Relief Through Trigger Point Massage

What exactly is a Trigger Point or, Myofascial Trigger Points (TrP)?  They are simply a firm, tangible, tender spot found in any given muscle group with symptoms including deep, aching pain, numbness, inflammation and a loss of range of motion.  Many people would compare these spots to knots.  In my practice, I see these occur primarily in the back/neck and Gluteal Muscles, but they can be found on any muscle in the body.  These “knots” are also frequently accompanied by referred pain.  Referral Pain is pain that is felt elsewhere from where the source is.  For example, if I was applying pressure to a tender Trigger Point in the Lower Back of a client, they may also feel that tender pain occurring in their Hamstring.

There are several causes for these painful spots:

  • Over-training and/or improper form
  • Muscle weakness
  • Car Accident
  • Poor Diet
  • Beginning a new exercise program
  • Emotional and/or physical trauma
  • Insomnia/sleep disorders

Trigger Point Therapy has become very popular since its first use in 1843.  Dr. F. Froriep, a German Physician, found tender spots, which he named “muscle callouses” in the muscles of his patients.  He discovered that treating these specific spots brought immense relief.  There has been a lot of research on this issue since, but the most recent and well-respected is from Janet G. Travell M.D. and David G. Simons M.D.  Dr. Travell worked with terminally ill patients.  She found that her patients complained more of and had more concerns with the pain instead of the serious illness that was being treated.  She dedicated her practice to pain syndromes and alleviating patients’ specific pain.

Trigger point massage therapy is specifically designed to alleviate the source of the pain through cycles of isolated pressure and release. In this type of massage for trigger point therapy, the recipient actively participates through deep breathing as well as identifying the exact location and intensity of the discomfort.

The results and benefits of trigger point massage are releasing contracted areas in the muscles thus alleviating pain. You can experience a significant decrease in pain after just one treatment. Receiving massage with trigger point therapy regularly can help naturally manage pain and stress from chronic injuries.

Self Massage – Trigger Points http://saveyourself.ca/tutorials/trigger-points.php