Monthly Archives: April 2012

Cramp in the Calf

ImageCramp in the Calf is a painful condition to be woken by.

There are certain steps that can be taken to prevent this occurring. When sleeping, do not lie on your front with your feet outstretched, as this allows the calf muscles to contract.

It may help to sleep on your back, with your feet solidly against the bottom of your bed or a wall.

A muscle called the Gastrocnemus is usually the culprit. This is the large muscle that gives your calf it’s shape.

Trigger points develop at the top of this muscle which cause cramp.

When these trigger points are treated with clinical massage and dry needle, the cramp will usually cease.

Cramps are also associated with dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Isotonic drinks such as Bio-Synergy Pure Energy can help.

Specific stretches to lengthen the calf muscles are helpful.

Vitamin E has been found to help the blood supply to the lower leg, take 400I.U. per day for 2 weeks.

This is also effective for Restless Legs. Studies show Vitamin E is more effective than Quinine in preventing cramp.


What is Fascia?


What is Fascia?
Fascia is tough connective tissue that creates a 3-dimensional web extending without interruption from head to toe. Fascia surrounds and infuses every muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel, and organ, all the way down to the cellular level.

The fascial system affects every system and function in your body- musculoskeletal, neurological, metabolic, etc. The white, glistening fibers you see when you pull a piece of meat apart or when you pull chicken skin away is fascia.

What is Fascia made of ?
Fascia consists of a complex which has three parts:
1. Elastin fibers – This is the elastic and stretchable part of the complex.

2. Collagen fibers – These fibers are extremely tough and give support to the 

3. Ground substance/matrix: A gelatinous like substance that transports metabolic 
material throughout the body

What does fascia do? 
The fascial system generally supports, stabilizes, and cushions. Fascia creates separation between vessels, organs, bones, and muscles. It creates space through which delicate nerves, blood vessels, and fluids can pass.

What are Fascial Restrictions? 
In a healthy state, the collagen fibers wrap around the elastic fibers in a relaxed, wavy configuration. Trauma, repetitive motion, inflammation, or poor posture can cause the fascia to become solidified and shortened. These thickened areas are referred to as a fascial restriction. Fascial restrictions have the capacity of creating up to 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch in a restricted area. That crushing pressure can compromise any physiological system in the body resulting in pain and dysfunction. 

The fascia throughout the body is all interconnected like the yarn in a sweater or a complex spider web. A restriction in one area of the body creates tension throughout this web pulling on other distant structures. This explains why some people may have pain that appears unrelated to their original injury. Furthermore, myofascial restrictions do not show up on common standardized tests such as x-rays, MRI, CAT scans, etc.

Fascial restrictions can pull the body out of its normal alignment, compressing joint surfaces and bulging disks, resulting in pain, loss of motion, and weakness.

seven self-care tips for clients with neck pain

Pain In The Neck

Pain In The Neck (Photo credit: Cayusa)

As one of the first kinds of healthcare professionals sought for help with musculoskeletal pain, it is no surprise that massage therapists are the preferred choice for helping to relieve neck pain. A skilled massage therapist can offer great relief to those with this prevalent problem; however, the relief may be temporary or can recur. Thus, the suggestions given below are intended to give clients self-reliance tools to prevent the reoccurrence of neck pain – or at least to assist in their pain management efforts at home.

Fortunately, most cases of neck pain are not serious. Ruling out a traumatic incident, a tumor, fracture, pressure on the spinal cord, an infection and a cardiovascular blockage, the most likely culprits of neck pain are strained muscles and osteoarthritis.
Neck muscle strain can be a result of repeated movements or maintaining sustained positions. Some examples include:
• Poor sitting alignment while at a desk or computer.
• Working with the shoulders forward which causes the head to tilt back.
• Sleeping in an awkward position.
• Sitting in a car longer than usual.
• Looking up repeatedly – for example: painting a ceiling or star gazing.
Arthritis or age-related changes can result in bony spurs and narrowed disc space in the cervical vertebrae. Joints with arthritis are more prone to inflammation from repeated movements or sustained positions than healthy joints.
Another etiology of cervical pain is emotional stress. Stress is known to precede apical breathing patterns. Together, stress and shallow, apical breathing cause neck muscles to tense. If this tension is sustained, a compressive force is exerted on the cervical vertebrae.
Waking with a stiff neck or having intensifying neck discomfort can be very painful. Thankfully, a long list of massage therapy techniques can help release hypertonic neck muscles, activate blood circulation and increase range of motion. However, a healer’s intentions go far beyond providing immediate pain relief. Sending clients with neck pain home with a flyer full of suggestions – or at least a verbal recitation of them – can go a long way in helping them deal with this nuisance or even prevent it from happening again.
Seven self-care strategies to empower clients with neck pain are:
1. Stress Relief – While stress will aggravate neck pain, relaxation can ease it. Suggestions for accomplishing this feat include deep abdominal breathing, meditation, visualization and other relaxation techniques.
2. Frequent Breaks – Even though sustained positions foster muscle tightness, this practice is deeply ingrained in our culture. If driving long distances or working long hours in one position, make sure to take frequent breaks. Breaks are best used to stretch, breathe deeply, take a sip of water and return to proper posture.
3. Exercises and Stretches – While some must be prescribed by a physical therapist, a massage therapist can suggest exercises and stretches for the neck as long as they don’t cause pain. Exercises and stretches help reduce pain by restoring muscle function, optimizing posture to prevent overload of muscle and increasing the strength and endurance of the neck muscles. These can include shoulder blade rolls/squeezes/shrugs, cervical extension/flexion, rotation, stretching the front wall chest muscles, strengthening the shoulder muscles and isometric exercises.
4. Hot and Cold Therapy – Most practitioners suggest alternating heat and cold to help a stiff, painful neck. Reduce inflammation by applying a cold pack for up to 20 minutes several times a day. Alternate this approach with heat, either a warm shower or a hot pack, for up to 20 minutes. Heat can help relax sore muscles, but it can aggravate inflammation if the area is red, warm and swollen.
5. Evaluate Ergonomics – Adjusting home or workplace conditions to relieve unnecessary neck stress can go a long way in preventing cervical discomfort. This includes proper positioning of a desk, chair, computer and phone so the screen is at eye level, knees are slightly lower than hips, arms rest comfortably on armrests and the neck is in a relaxed neutral position while on the phone.
6. Sleep Deliberately – Since a lot of neck pain can arise from poor positioning during sleep, deliberately planning a sleep position can prevent a painful neck. Avoid sleeping on the stomach and use a pillow that supports the natural curve of the neck. Back sleepers are advised to use a rounded pillow (neck roll) under the curve of the neck, with a flatter pillow cushioning the head. Side sleepers should keep their spine straight by using a pillow that is higher under the neck than the head. The goal is to prevent overnight neck flexion.
7. Sock and Tennis Balls – A simple homemade device can be used for self-administered cervical acupressure. Put two tennis balls in a sock and tie off the sock so the balls are stationary. Place the tennis balls under the occiput so they are pressing on the hollows under the skull on either side of the spine (Gallbladder 20) for about 10 minutes. Lying on this device can help relax taut, posterior neck muscles.
With today’s fast-paced society, stress and muscle tension are significant sources of neck pain. In fact, a person who has suffered from neck pain in the past is four times more likely to end up with a recurrence of this problem. Although, if armed with these seven strategies, massage therapists can empower their clients to overcome neck pain – and prevent its return.

Rest & Recovery After Exercise Improves Performance!

Did You Know: Rest & Recovery After Exercise Improves Performance!

Most athletes know that getting enough rest after exercise is essential to high-level performance, but many still over train and feel guilty when they take a day off. The body repairs and strengthens itself in the time between workouts, and continuous training can actually weaken the strongest athletes.

Rest days are critical to sports performance for a variety of reasons. Some are physiological and some are psychological. Rest is physically necessary so that the muscles can repair, rebuild and strengthen. For recreational athletes, building in rest days can help maintain a better balance between home, work and fitness goals.

In the worst-case scenario, too few rest and recovery days can lead to overtraining syndrome – a difficult condition to recover from.

What Happens During Recovery?
Building recovery time into any training program is important because this is the time that the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place. Recovery also allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. Exercise or any other physical work causes changes in the body such as muscle tissue breakdown and the depletion of energy stores (muscle glycogen) as well as fluid loss.
Recovery time allows these stores to be replenished and allows tissue repair to occur. Without sufficient time to repair and replenish, the body will continue to breakdown from intensive exercise. Symptoms of overtraining often occur from a lack of recovery time. Signs of overtraining include a feeling of general malaise, staleness, depression, decreased sports performance and increased risk of injury, among others.

Short and Long-Term Recovery: Keep in mind that there are two categories of recovery. There is immediate (short-term) recovery from a particularly intense training session or event, and there is the long-term recovery that needs to be build into a year-round training schedule. Both are important for optimal sports performance.

Short-term recovery, sometimes called active recovery occurs in the hours immediately after intense exercise. Active recovery refers to engaging in low-intensity exercise after workouts during both the cool-down phase immediately after a hard effort or workout as well as during the days following the workout. Both types of active recovery are linked to performance benefits.
Another major focus of recovery immediately following exercise has to do with replenishing energy stores and fluids lost during exercise and optimizing protein synthesis (the process of increasing the protein content of muscle cells, preventing muscle breakdown and increasing muscle size) by eating the right foods in the post-exercise meal.

This is also the time for soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments) repair and the removal of chemicals that build up as a result of cell activity during exercise.

Chewing gum eases stress but harms your jaw?

Did You Know: Chewing gum eases stress but harms your jaw?

Chewing gum is a great way to relieve stress, especially for former smokers and people dieting, but may end up making the jaws of chewers feel tired and sore, according to new research.

Chewing the gum releases pent-up energy. But chew it too vigorously or too often and you could end up with jaw problems, according to oral surgeons at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Dr. Douglas Sinn, a UT Southwestern oral surgeon, said constant gum chewing can tire jaws, and lead to muscle fatigue, muscle spasms and pain. It may even lead to a syndrome called TMJ that causes pain in the head or neck and may make it difficult to open and close the jaw properly, according to a statement from Sinn.

Ironically, the more stress you’re under when you chew gum, the more stress you may be putting on your jaws, according to the research.

When you’re stressed, you’re likely to chew harder and more vigorously, which leaves your jaw even more tired and stressed, said Sinn.

Sinn added that instead of relying on chewing gum, individuals should look for additional ways to relieve stress, such as Clinical massage, exercise, squeezing a stress ball, meditation or other relaxation techniques.

the Spasm Facts:

A charley horse is the common name for a muscle spasm, especially in the leg. Muscle spasms can occur in any muscle in the body. When a muscle is in spasm, it contracts without your control and does not relax.

Muscle spasms often occur when a muscle is overused or injured. Working out when you haven’t had enough fluids (you’re dehydrated) or when you have low levels of minerals such as potassium or calcium can also make you more likely to have muscle spasms.

Some spasms occur because the nerve that connects to a muscle is irritated. The classic example is a herniated disk irritating spinal nerves as they exit the back, causing pain and spasm.

Spasms in the calf often occur while kicking during swimming, and can also occur at night while you’re in bed. Upper leg spasms are more common with running or jumping activities. Spasm in the neck (cervical spine) can be a sign of stress.

When a muscle goes into spasm it feels very tight and is sometimes described as a knot. The pain can be severe.

Your health care provider can diagnose muscle spasms by the presence of tight or hard muscles that are very tender to the touch. There are no imaging studies or blood tests that can diagnose this condition. If the spasm is caused by nerve irritation, such as in the back, an MRI may be helpful to find the cause of the irritation.

At the first sign of a muscle spasm, stop your activity and try stretching and massaging the affected muscle. Heat will relax the muscle at first, although ice may be helpful after the first spasm and when the pain has improved. If the muscle is still sore, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can help with pain. In more severe cases, your health care provider can prescribe antispasm medications.

After you get treated, your health care provider should look for the cause of the spasm so that it doesn’t recur. If an irritated nerve is involved, you might need physical therapy or even surgery.

The most common cause of muscle cramps during sports activity is dehydration. Often, drinking water or sports drinks will ease the cramping. However, drinking water alone at times is not sufficient. Salt tablets or sports drinks that can replenish loss minerals can be helpful.

Muscle spasms will get better with rest and time. The outlook is excellent for most people. Proper training techniques should prevent spasms from occurring regularly. If an irritated nerve caused the spasm, you might need more treatment and results can vary.

If you have a muscle spasm with severe pain, contact your health care provider. . If you have weakness with your muscle spasm, contact your health care provider.

Even if your spasms are not severe, your health care provider can help you change your exercise program to reduce the risk of spasms in the future.

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Spinal cord Facts:

Spinal Cord Facts:
A thick cylinder of nerve tissue that runs down the central canal of the spinal column. The spinal cord is an extension of the brain, and together with the brain forms the central nervous system.

The spinal cord originates at the lower (inferior) end of the medulla oblongata, at the bottom of the brainstem. It leaves the skull via a large opening called the foramen magnum, and extends about two-thirds of the way down the spine, as far as the first lumbar vertebra.

The spinal cord is unique to the nervous system of vertebrates. In an adult human it is about 45 cm (18 in.) long and roughly as thick as a finger. Spinal nerves from the spinal cord branch off to various parts of the body.

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