Archive for May, 2011

Muscles – The Body’s Natural Splints

I found a great description of what I call muscular armoring after injury. In this case, Erik Dalton is specifically talking about an injury to the spine:

When the brain senses bony instability or ligamentous damage in-and-around the spine, information is collected so split decisions can be made to determine the extent of threat to the individual and what actions if any need to be taken. Layering the area with protective myospasm is one such decision. It’s the brain’s reflexogenic attempt to prevent further insult to the injured tissues. By ‘splinting’ the area with spasm, the hypercontracted shortened muscles, ligaments and fascia effectively reduce painful joint movements. Splinting is a common form of protective guarding clinicians address day-in and day-out… but how does it develop and how should we treat it?

via The True Grit of Muscle Spasm.

Let me break this down for you. When pain occurs in the body, the body wants to reduce the pain so that it can heal itself. When the pain is movement-related, that is, across a joint or structure that causes compression or movement of tissue, the body will elicit a temporary spasm of the muscles around the area to keep it still while it heals.  This is the “splinting” that he’s referring to. The muscles and soft tissue themselves create areas of muscular spasm to reduce movement of the area while it heals.

Physicians do the same thing with air casts, spints and joint wraps after a injury. They are assisting the body’s need to keep an area immobile while issues in the tissue are healed. The body does the same thing by restricting movement. In this example, the spinal muscles, so important in movement, splint, then require other muscles (normally used for spine and pelvic stabilization) to substitute for them in become active movers in the area. These muscles, unused to this role, tire easily and further contribute to the fatigue and spasm in the area.

Think about it this way. . . What if the doctor never took the cast off? How would your movement and activity be restricted if you kept the cast on after you healed? For many people, injuries cause compensation patterns throughout the body long after the initial injury healed. This is why massage, movement therapies and physical therapy are so important after an injury.

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In Case You Missed the CDC “Zombie Apocalypse” Guidelines

Did you miss last week’s CDC Zombie Apocalypse Guidelines? If so, you can click through to the guidelines here:

The rise of zombies in pop culture has given credence to the idea that a zombie apocalypse could happen. In such a scenario zombies would take over entire countries, roaming city streets eating anything living that got in their way. The proliferation of this idea has led many people to wonder “How do I prepare for a zombie apocalypse?”

Well, we’re here to answer that question for you, and hopefully share a few tips about preparing for real emergencies too!

CDC Has Tips For ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ And Other Disasters

Or listen to NPR’s story here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/05/20/136465244/cdc-has-tips-for-zombie-apocalypse-and-other-disasters?ps=sh_sthdl

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Why Fragments of Fascia in the Cells Matter

cells on a slide

I know what you’re thinking, “Oh God, she’s on the fascia bandwagon. Again.”

See, I’ve become more and more convinced that it’s the connective tissues and the fibers between things that allow and prevent movement.

But here’s why I’ve pulled out these two quotes from two informative blog entries: I’ve recently started reading not only about the fascial network around muscles, bones and soft tissue, but also about the connective tissue in each cell. That’s right – each cell has pieces and parts of the connective tissue that we call fascia. Every cell has a little components of fascia in it that directs force and shape and energy through the cell.

This is important because it shows how our bodies are designed for movement and the transmission of energy and force at the cellular level. We don’t just move large pieces of us, like stopmotion limbs. With each breath, each movement of nutrients into and out of tissues, each transmission of electrical current up and down the nervous system our bodies retain the ability to move and to return to a base form.

The Connective tissue properties are determined by the local components of the Extracellular Matrix. In the case of Fascia, elastin and collagen fibers are secreted into the ECM along with ground substance by the connective tissue’s cellular components fibroblasts, mast cells, adipose cells, macrophages, plasma cells, and leukocytes to form this ever pervasive connective tissue network. This fascia network weaves its way through the body in every direction without interruption. It surrounds the cells of every nerve, blood vessel, organ, muscle and bone. An injury in one part of this dynamic web affects all other parts, which is why a client can have a resistant hyperextension in the upper cervical muscles as a result of a constricted planar fascia!

via Fascia: The Big Picture.

What’s that about cervical muscles and planar fascia? Your tight neck issue might be coming from your feet.

Here’s an easy experiment to try. Stand up right now and see how far down you can reach with a forward bend. Can you make it to your shins, the tops of your feet, fingers to the floor? Now, take a golfball and vigorously rub the bottom surface of your foot for 60 seconds on each foot. Then repeat the forward bend and see the difference in your flexibility.

These pieces of connective tissue are what’s holding you together, AND what circumscribes your limits. Massage of the feet affects the back and neck.

But I find the coolest part of the whole thing that these internal structures are used to detect and to provide support and transport during healing.

What happens when an injury occurs?  How does healing affect this network of connective tissue? We have to remember that the body works in tiny pieces. Doctors sew muscles and tissue back together with a needle and thread. We use sutures and staples. But all we really do when we sew tissue back together is keep the pieces that are supposed to be next to each other neighbors while the body does it’s healing. The body has to figure out where the disruptions have occurred in its connective tissue. It has to get around compromised immune, circulatory, and muscular tissue.

Healing occurs at a cellular level. If the flow of energy in the living matrix is disrupted it can cause breakdowns decreasing the ability of the system to communicate and coordinate immune defenses and repair processes. Whether an injury is a gaping wound or a paper cut, the repair process is completed by the connective tissues and individual cells. The connective tissue fabric summons the cells needed for healing by sending a variety of potential signals through the matrix and the needed cells begin migrating to the injured tissues. Much of this cell migration takes place as cells break existing connections and make new ones along the connective tissue fabric – in essence the cells use the living matrix’s structural scaffolding to crawl to the injury.

via Cellular Communication – Riding the Wave.

The connective tissue has enough interwoven pieces connecting the insides and outsides of cells that it can detect when something has gone wrong and can figure out what type of cells to add to fix the problem. Oh, and by the way, the cell uses the interior and exterior structures to move itself or its tools to the area. How cool is that?

It’s a cool thing you’re walking around in right now. Keep it moving with massage and exercise.

Photo credit flickr.com CCL Patrick Hoesly

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Feeling plugged? Abdominal Massage Can Get Things Moving

plunger

Recent studies suggest that abdominal massage and acupressure/meridian massage improve bowel function.  In a study designed to test the efficacy of massage on constipation and stress, a set of college students were given either abdominal massage with aromatherapy or acupressure/meridian massage and tracked for four weeks. Over the course of the study, the students who either of the abdominal massages reported positive effects:

“Both abdominal massages relieved constipation and stress,” the researchers noted. “Resorting to either type of massage will contribute to the reduction of use of stool softeners, suppositories or enemas.”

via Abdominal and Meridian Massage Both Relieve Constipation.

Click through to the link to find the details on the study.

Not many people request abdominal massage, but it’s a tremendous benefit to the digestive system and the immune system.  Think about requesting abdominal massage when you’re looking for massage therapy in Louisville or Nashville, especially if you’re having issues keeping your digestive tract moving or suffer constipation. I can also show you an easy abdominal massage to you to keep things moving.

Photo credit: sxc.hu user: nulus

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Your Body During Movement – Like a Jello Cube

How is a human like a cube of jello? A large percentage of the soft tissues, including muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia is collagen, a protein known for its ability to response to force and pressure to change shape. And what is jello made of?  That’s right, collagen.

Collagen is that stretchy stuff that enables tissues to move, keeps them pliable, and keeps them soft enough to respond to our need to move and breathe and step up into the world. It also enables tissues to return to an initial form – gives them a way to “remember” the shape they had before movement and compression.

When I see how much force the jello can take as it compresses against the surface, it gives me a sense of wonder that so much of our bodies have these proteins. We are made to move, and each cell in our connective tissue echoes that ability. Fascia and connective tissue are like the jello cube – allowing movement and compression, absorbing energy of force, and returning to a semblance of its initial shape.

Maybe you want to know more about how your body moves, or just see a cool video of jello. Watch the video, either way. I never realized a jello cube could be so mesmerizing.

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Squeeze the Feet to Kill the Headache

foot massage

Sounds a little crazy, huh? Press on my feet and affect an unrelated part of the body? Clear my sinuses? Relieve my headache? Crazytalk!

It may seem like hocuspocus, but there is a long tradition of reflexology which does just that. It associates certain parts of the foot with very specific parts of the body, and massage to the foot location (the reflex) affects changes throughout the entire body. I didn’t think much of reflexology until I saw it work on me and my clients.

Physiologically, it’s not clear what mechanism connects reflex points on the feet to various organs and areas of the body, but reflexologists build a career out of treating people through work on their feet, hands or ears (which also have reflexes much like the feet). I’ve seen it relieve sinus pressure and clear the head, help with headaches and migraines, relieve constipation, reduce bladder issues, help digestion, ease stomach cramps, and help with allergies. Reflexology may seem a little “out there,” but for a lot of people, its an easy and effective way to use self-massage to improve health and wellness.

So what are some good spots to know for working on the head and neck?

Reflexes Mirrored on the Toes

The pads of the toes are thought to represent the head while the necks of the toes are thought to mirror the body’s neck. Specific reflexology techniques are applied to all sides of the toes including the toenails.

Focus work on the toes would encourage a relaxed mind, release muscle tension in the neck and reduce discomfort in the face and scalp.

  • Toenails – are stimulated for the back of the head which includes the scalp.
  • Tips of the toes – are stimulated for sinus congestion.
  • Pads of the toes – are stimulated for the mouth – the teeth, gums, and jaw.
  • Pad of the great toes – are stimulated for the brain including the Hypothalamus and Pituitary gland reflexes.
  • Necks of the toes – are stimulated for the neck, throat, breathing airway or trachea.

via Cranial and Neck Reflex Areas in Reflexology | Suite101.com.

Head over to the above link for more information, and if you’d like to try a little reflexology, give me a heads up before your next massage in Louisville or Nashville.  I can save time during the session and make sure to work the reflexes most effective for your issues.

photo credit: sxc.hu user dcarson924

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Healing the Hunch – Can Exercise Help Dowager’s Hump?

backbend

The New York Times recently included information on kyphosis – the hunched back you’ll sometimes see in seniors. There are many causes of kyphosis including posture, osteoporosis, degeneration or arthritis of the spine, and connective tissue issues.  As I linked to last month, movement is great for joints, and it also appears to be helpful in treating kyphosis, or at least prevents further progression of the curvature.

It turns out that exercise extending the spine and strengthening the spinal extensors seems to keep the hyperkyphosis from progressing and in some cases improves it (extension of the spine is the opposite of bending forward; it’s looking overhead and leaning back as if you were about to do a back bend). Directly from the article:

Certain kinds of exercise may prevent or delay progression of the abnormally hunched back called hyperkyphosis but have not been proved to correct it completely, medical authorities say. It normally progresses with age.

Recent studies suggest that exercises that extend the spine may help manage kyphosis in older people and sometimes improving it, though stronger evidence is needed before a general recommendation is made.

via Can Exercise Help Straighten a Curved Spine? – NYTimes.com.

If you think you’re having issues, make sure to see your primary care provider and work with a physical therapist to find specific strengthening exercises for the extensors. Massage can assist in relaxing the chest, arm and anterior neck muscles pulling on the head and open up the chest cavity to give the spine room to straighten.

Click through to see the full question and answer.

photo credit: flickr.com ccl user lululemon athletica

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Bergamot Honey and Lavendar Ice – Sipping Relaxation After Massage

Want a little down time in the kitchen? Some relaxing uses of essential oils and aromatherapy include using them to flavor or bring out aromas in food.  In an article about aromatherapy in the kitchen, I found two recipes that look like a wonderful addition to a post-massage evening. Click through to the link to find out more about specific essential oils used for relaxation in aromatherapy.

Bergamot Honey for Earl Grey Tea

To a 16 ounce (one pound) jar of honey add three drops of bergamot essential oil and stir with a spatula. Store in a cool, dry place and use a teaspoon of honey in a cup of your favorite Earl Grey tea. If honey crystallizes simply warm it in a tub of very hot water – do not microwave the honey!

Lavender Ice Cubes Recipe

Remove your ice cube trays and measure the amount of water required to fill them. In this water use a ratio of one cup water to one heaping tablespoon fresh or dried lavender buds. Fill the trays and return them to the freezer. Store ice cubes in a zip-top style freezer safe bag for easy access.

Float a couple of lavender cubes in a glass of lemonade, wine spritzer or another favorite summer drink. Put your feet up and relax.

via Relaxation and Stress Reduction in the Kitchen with Aromatherapy | Suite101.com.

Tuck some lavender into a few ice cubes before your next massage in Louisville or Nashville and give yourself a post-massage treat.

photo credit: sxc.hu user pulpdpt

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