Archive for Stretching

Final Fabulous Foot Massage Video: Face-down Toe Work

Ready to finish out the feet? We’ve done some excellent work on the foot with your partner face-down.  This lets you use your body and hands to apply more pressure to the sole of the foot and feels wonderful to fans of deep tissue work.  Let’s finish out the last bit with toe stretches and techniques.

If you haven’t gotten a gift for your Valentine, consider giving your partner a 20-30 min foot massage with these techniques.  Couple that with some soft music, fine chocolate, a glass wine and you have the perfect Valentine’s gift!

To feel this first-hand, contact me for a massage in Louisville or for a session in Nashville.

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FABULOUS Face-down Foot Massage Techniques

Got a partner who wants deeper pressure on his/her feet? Working on the feet while your partner is face-down is a wonderful way to use deeper pressure on the feet while keeping your own hands safe.

A lot of these techniques are the same or similar to what we used on the Fabulous Face-up Foot Massage, and the Fabulous Face-Up Toe Massage so don’t be surprised if it looks familiar. Remember to use a pillow under the ankles to keep the feet elevated a little and make foot massage more comfy. If you don’t have a pillow, roll up a towel or a blanket to give the foot a little cushion.

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More FABULOUS Foot Massage Techniques: Toes!

The toes are an often forgotten part of the body. Until they start to cause issues, that is. Issues with the toes can eventually make their way up the body in compensation patterns and cause problems in the ankle, knee, hips, back and even the neck/shoulders. With that in mind, I’ll give you a great way to work on a friend or partner’s toes.

I use many of these techniques every day – and the toe stretches at the end of the video are wonderful. I’ve had clients report reduction in plantar fasciitis and tendonitis on the foot from these stretches. For people with flat feet it can really open up the tissue and get good blood flow going.

One caution – the toe stretches can be very intense. Move slowly and do very small stretches at first. Have your partner tell you as soon as it starts to feel uncomfortable. You can move the toes a lot further than the body is comfortable with them stretching, so you’ll be asked to stop the stretch before you feel the end of the range of motion with these stretches.

Enjoy! And as always, contact me for massage therapy in Louisville.

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Self-Massage for Nursing Moms and New Moms

New moms don’t get a lot of breaks.  Between the sleep deprivation, the late nights, and baby worries it can be pretty stressful. To help with the aches and tension that comes from breastfeeding and caring for an infant in general, I put together a short video demonstrating the stretches and self-massage techniques I share with new moms.

I usually show these to them when they’re hugely pregnant and so ready to have the baby that I’m not sure they absorb a lot of the information to use later.  I decided to video these simple techniques so that I could share them with clients and new moms everywhere to help where I can.

The benefits of doing this self-massage and stretching can include having a looser neck, less neck/shoulder pain, reduced headaches, easing of tension in the chest and upper back, reduced jaw pain (if that’s become an issue), and fewer “cricks” in the neck. As with any new stretching/massage routine, you want to be gentle on your body, but you do want to feel the stretch.  It may take a few repetitions a day to start seeing the benefits, but most moms report back that doing these stretches helps with shoulder and neck pain right away.

So forward this along to breastfeeding moms and new moms – even doing these stretches once a day will help. And some of the neck stretches you may be able to do a bit of while you’re feeding the littlest one.

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Easy Peasy Neck Massage

After the 12 days of partner massage, I wanted to get back to some self-massage tips.  This massage technique is something easy enough to do at your desk, AND it feels great.  The trick here is that you’re pressing with your hand and moving the neck and head underneath the hand.  This makes self-massage of the neck much gentler on your own hands.

Typically, self-massage of the neck includes a lot of work that uses the thumb to squeeze the shoulders and neck.  That feels wonderful, but it will leave you with sore thumbs and very tired hands.  By using movement, you take the pressure off the hands and get some fascial work along with the muscle massage.

I’ve started doing neck massage this way in the last few months and love the way it feels.  Just do five of each and in a couple of minutes, you’ve given your neck a great massage and kept your hands in good shape.

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Strengthen and Stretch for Overuse Injuries

Although it’s one of the things that makes us unique as humans, that opposable thumb can really cause problems.  Our ability to grip and manipulate things with our hands and fingers keeps us busy at work, at home, and even when we play.

All this work and play with the hands gripping or pressing downward can cause repetitive stress injury or overuse injury in the hands and forearms.  Instead of heading straight to surgery or medication, to fix the issue, why not deal with the problem at its root – the muscular imbalance between the two sides of the forearm.

A recent article quoted below has an easier, less invasive alternative to surgery and medication.  The author suggests a combination of stretching and strengthening exercises to overcome issues soreness, pain and stiffness in the hand from overuse injuries.

Here’s a little background: all muscles work in pairs.  There is the muscle that does the work – the prime mover – and there is the muscle that is its opposer – it’s antagonist.   Both muscles work in tandem.  As one contracts, the other relaxes to allow movement.  This is the mechanism used throughout the body for motion to occur.  Muscles form systems of pulleys that work in concert to move your body.

The majority of the muscles that move the fingers and the hands actually reside in the forearm.  You have a set of muscles referred to as the “flexors” which flex your arm, bringing your palm toward your forearm.  The antagonist muscles, “the extensors,” are the muscles which bring the back of your hand toward your forearm.

Because the majority of the movements we make during the day deal with gripping, holding or otherwise using the flexors, these muscles become very tight.  Over time, hundreds and thousands of strokes on a keyboard or stirring with a spoon, or cleaning up around the house strengthen the flexors to the point that they become chronically tight.

Since the muscles work in pairs, the extensor muscles, those on the back of your forearm, get overworked and start to weaken, and no matter how hard they try, the extensors can never catch up to take up the full tension the tight flexors cause.  The flexors, meanwhile, keep shortening as they tighten, many times causing dysfunction and/or pain in the forearm, hand, wrist and finger movements.

So what do you do?  In order to rebalance the muscles so they work together as a healthy pair, you have to do two things: 1) stretch the flexors to extend the muscle and loosen it; and 2) strengthen the extensors so they have the ability to counteract the flexors and keep the muscle tone balanced.

Here’s an excerpt from that article:

in many of these cases it may be as simple as tailoring a strategy that includes rest from the activity causing the problem, applying ice to reduce inflammation, and rebalancing the relationship between the finger flexors and finger extensors, specifically addressing the muscles involved with extension of the digits.

via Conservative Treatment of Repetitive-Stress Injuries: Exercise Is the Key.

The solution has two parts: strengthen the extensors and stretch the flexors.

Throughout the day, stretch the forearm flexors.  Extend your arm and put your hand out in front of you as if you were directing traffic and telling cars to stop.  With your other hand pull the fingers and the hand back toward your body.  You should feel the stretch in your palm, the inside of your wrist and the forearm.  Hold each stretch for 1-2 seconds and repeat it 20 times.  Do three sets a few times during the day.

Part two, the most important part, is to develop strength in the extensors.  Make a loop out of theraband or another stretching material. Stand up and put one foot in the bottom of the loop.  Stand with your arm at your side with your palm sort of parallel to the floor (facing downward).  Put the top of the loop over the top of your fingers and pull the back of the hand toward the forearm (up toward your head).  You should feel the back of your forearm working to pull the stretchy band or rope upward with your fingers.  Do these for 1-2 second at a time and repeat 20 times.  Do three sets a few times during the day.

Remember that the goal here is to strengthen the extensors – the back of the forearm – and to stretch out the flexors – the muscles used to bring the palm toward the forearm.  Take the time to rebalance the muscles in the forearm can reduce soreness, achiness, stiffness and other symptoms associated with overuse injuries or repetitive stress injuries.

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iPhone and Blackberry Hand Massage (Part 3 of the Crackberry Recovery Program)

OK, I’ve told you twice, you need to take more breaks when you use your Blackberry (Crackberry), iPhone and Droid for long periods of time. You’ll get texting thumb! If you’re already on one, check out this video on how to massage your own hands from all that time on the smartphones. So, turn it sideways to see the video below and work on your own hands.

I’m using a tennis ball in the video for part of the hand massage, but you can use any kind of ball with a little bit of give to it. If you only have decorative, ceramic or stone balls, you can use them, but go easy on the pressure so you don’t hurt your hands.

If you find that you need more pressure than you can get sitting down, you can stand up and use your body weight to add some pressure to the tennis ball to give yourself a deeper massage on your palm. Again, be careful if you’re not using a ball with some give to it. Never go too deep on your hands – you only have those two, so take care of them.

Here’s Crackberry/iPhone Addicts Part 1 and Crackberry/iPhone Addicts Part 2 if you missed them. This massage is designed to be done after doing the stretches and massaging in parts 1 and 2, but you can try them out without. After the stretches for the hand in part 2, this feels wonderful.

Here’s the video – enjoy:

Although these videos won’t cure you of your Blackberry/iPhone addiction, they can help your body recover from the stresses. Use them daily if you’re a heavy user. Stay strong!

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Crackberry Addict Recovery Program: Part 2

Hey wait, are you still reading this on your iPhone?  Sending a message on a Blackberry?  Bent over your Droid?

I hope you’ve been doing your stretches!  On Monday I posted a short video of stretches for Crackberry addicts and iPhone users. If you’ve tried them out after a session on your smartphone you know how much better your arms and shoulders feel.

Today’s part 2 video includes stretches for the hands and fingers, and they feel good after some time bent over those little phones that do so much.

Stay tuned for part 3 next week that includes massage tips for the hand.

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Crackberry Addict Recovery Program: Stretches

Hi.  My name is Heather.  I’m a Crackberry Addict.  Well, not really.  I have a Droid X that’s my addiction, but I steal my brother’s iPhone when he’s around.  So I spend a lot of time huddled over a tiny keyboard, thumbing and poking at tiny keys and touch keyboards.

As do a lot of my clients.  Maybe even YOU!

Smartphones are incredible tools, but they weren’t designed for long term use, and I know some of you spend a LOT of time thumbing away on the Crackberry.  So, for a just a minute: PUT THE CRACKBERRY DOWN AND STEP AWAY FROM THE DEVICE.

Unless of course that’s how you’re viewing this.  In that case, set it on a surface so you can see the following video (Part 1 of 2) that demonstrates stretches to help with the tight hands, wrists, forearms and achy shoulders of all those hours poking away at the keyboard letter by letter.

If you want to be able to continue to rely on your Smartphone, you’ve got to keep your hands and arms in shape.  More stretches for the hand later this week so stay tuned.  Next week I might put together self massage for the hand! (Useful for lots of time cooking for Thanksgiving, too.)

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How to Set Up Your Workstation

Do you end the day achy, with a sore neck and shoulders?  Do you have numbness and tingling in your fingers and forearms?  Your desk setup may be at fault.  For many people, the setup of the computer workstation has more to do with the furniture available than the best setup for an individual.

First, take a quick assessment of your posture.  An article from TweakFit suggests putting your heels at the wall and seeing what parts of the body come in contact with the wall:

Counter all the forward slumping over your desk/keyboard and stand with your back against a wall. Start with your heels touching the wall. Try to notice what parts of your body are in alignment. Do your calves also touch the wall? Does your butt touch? Where does your back hit the wall? Is it just your shoulderblades touching? How much space is between the back of your shoulder and the wall? Can you get the back of your head to comfortably rest against the wall?

via Posture Saving Tip | TweakFit.

One of the most important things to notice is whether or not the back of your head touches the wall.  If it does, your neck is in good shape.  If you have to push your head back to touch the wall, you’ve got a head forward posture.  A head forward posture places additional strain on the neck and shoulders and all the muscles of the neck and upper back because they much work harder to hold the head.  If the back of your head touches the wall, your skull is centered over your spine and the bones support the bulk of the weight of the head rather than the muscles working to hold the head up in a head-forward posture.

Because so much of our day is centered around our computers and workstations, we spend a good deal of every day in whatever posture our computers put us in.  But here’s a thought:  put the computer in the best possible position for you instead of the other way around.  One of the things that contributes to a head-forward posture is improper ergonomics (body positioning) at a computer workstation.

Here’s a quick summary of the most important ergonomic tips of workstation setup:

  1. Keep the thighs parallel to the floor.
  2. Keep your elbows at 90 degrees with the elbows on the same plane as the torso, not forward of the side of the ribcage.
  3. If your keyboard height puts your elbow angle at less than 90 degrees, raise your chair, and put a foot rest underneath your feet so your legs are once again parallel to the floor.
  4. Move your monitor so that your eyeline falls at the top of the monitor, with the monitor at 15 degrees.
  5. Your eyes should be at least 20 inches from the monitor.

This picture (also from Tweakfit) outlines the best position for working at a computer.

How to setup your workstation ergonomically

The two most important tips here are these:  keeping the elbows at 90 degrees and keeping the monitor at a good height or level.  Adjust the monitor higher by adding books or other objects beneath it to raise it.   If the monitor is too high, raise your chair and put a footrest underneath your feet.

If the keyboard is too low, try raising the keyboard tray or putting the keyboard on the desk surface (although this will mean that you’ll need to raise the monitor as well).  If the keyboard is too high, use a keyboard tray or raise your chair.  Remember, the best height for the keyboard keeps your elbows close to 90 degrees.

These tips on the ergonomic setup of your workstation will help alleviate the stress bad posture puts on your body.  However, it is also important that you take frequent breaks, at least one per hour, to stand up from your desk, relax your shoulders and stretch out your back.  In a future post, I will link to some software tools that will remind you to take breaks during your day.

Until then, take a peek at your workstation setup and make some adjustments.  Your shoulders with thank you.  And your neck, and eyes, and arms, and wrists, and fingers, and. . .

Other links to check out for more detailed information:

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