Thursday, December 22, 2011

Do You Massage Feet Too?


I see a lot of clients who come in regularly to keep work or recreational repetitive stresses from flaring into issues.  This usually means that we work on the same areas each week, either neck and shoulder focus, or low back, or forearms and hands.  Every once in a while one of these clients will ask if I can do anything else.

The answer is yes!  One of my regular clients, whom I have been seeing for some time now, usually has a 45 minute treatment focused to upper back, neck and sometimes forearms and hamstrings.  The other day she came to see me and asked if I ever work on feet, to which I replied absolutely!

We proceeded to do an entire 45 minute session to feet and calves.  I did a little reflexology work, and some massage.  She totally loved the session, actually had the same treatment the following week!  The reflexology still helped loosen and relax her upper body, and well as areas that we never get to work on, plus she had the relaxing effects of TLC on her tootsies!

Another client who normally comes for deep tissue work asked if I could do relaxation massage one day, as she was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.  We spent the entire hour doing a session that you might get in a spa setting.  I even used an oil blend perfect for relaxation.  We spent the last 20 minutes working scalp and face, and the results were fantastic.  She left feeling calm, and very relaxed.

So if you are ever feeling like a slightly different treatment is what you need, please ask!  I have many tools under my belt as a registered massage therapist, from active assisted stretching, to craniosacral therapy.  Even though I joke about giving a crummy relaxation massage, I am actually a pretty good at it!  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Baby Step Your Way to Health


Sometimes the road to health can seem overwhelming.  You see these fit people and think they are freaks of nature, or just lucky somehow to be gifted with time to exercise or eat right.

Well I am here to tell you that the road is a little bumpy, but you too can one day be one of those people that others look to and wonder how you find the time.

The secret to success is to simply move in that direction, one little step at a time.  This can be as simple as eating one less spoonful of cereal, taking one more flight of stairs, or adding one more leaf of lettuce to your salad.

Each step you take towards health means one step farther away from your previous unhealthy habits.  For every celery stalk you eat, you will have less room in your tummy to fill with cookies.  For every after dinner walk around the block you take, you will have less time to get hooked on yet another TV sitcom.

There are so many opportunities in a day to do something healthier than you did the day before; you just have to make the choice.  Every time you reach for your morning bowl of cereal, ask yourself, “is this the best choice for my health?”  Maybe you should read the label and measure what an actual portion size is.  Maybe you should try the cereal with just a little more fiber and a little less sugar today.  Maybe you should have a green smoothie today and not have cereal at all! 

These are all options that most likely won’t make you late for work, but they do make you step out of routine just a tiny bit.  This is where most people get caught in habits.  It isn’t that there isn’t time, it is that you have to think – it isn’t automatic.  We are all running our lives on autopilot so much now that I think routine itself is becoming a bad habit!

Shake it up a bit!  Make a commitment to adding one tiny new healthy habit every week.

Eventually these little tiny things add up to major lifestyle changes, until suddenly you are leaner, have more energy, and therefore more time to do the things you love, and become a role model for those around you.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Forearm Stretch


Many of you work at computers all day long, only to go home and work on them all night too.  Excessive keyboarding can cause discomfort in the hands and forearms.  Many of the muscles that control finger movements are located in your forearms, so stretching out the forearms is a great thing to do during your busy work day.

Start by extending your right arm out in front of you with palm facing down.  Using your other hand, hold your right hand just below the wrist and gently pull it down so that your hand is pointing down toward the floor.  You should feel a gentle stretch only.  Hold for 20 seconds (or longer if you like)

Next turn your outstretched arm with palm facing up, and this time, using your other hand, hold across your right fingers, pulling them down so they point to the floor.  Again, keep the stretch gentle and comfortable, holding for 20 seconds.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Self Help for Neck Pain and Stiffness


Have you ever woken up and not been able to turn your head?  If this has happened to you, you know how uncomfortable this can be.

Sometimes it is painful, and sometimes it isn’t.  Sometimes you have an idea what might have caused it, like sitting at a table with your head turned to the right or left for two hours chatting with someone at your side.  Or maybe it started the morning after you were hit in the side of the head with a football.  But sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be any logical reason whatsoever.

No matter what the cause, it can be quite distressing to be unable to turn your head one way or the other.  Many cases of neck crick clear up on their own, within a few days or weeks, but sometimes, like anything in the body, things don’t go quite the way you planned.

So what can you do if your neck is painful and/or immobile?  Start with good old heat.  Any kind of heat will do, hot shower, hot pack, sauna, hot tub, even some warming liniment can help relax tight muscles and trigger points around the area.

Next do some self-massage.  Gently work the tight areas with your fingers, working up the back of the neck in the groove between the spinous processes in the back of your neck and the transverse processes in line with your ears.  Stop and hold some pressure on any big lumps in the muscles you feel. 

Using finger tips, gently run over the sides of your neck, working down in little 1 inch sections.  Then, using a pink pearl eraser, or fingers, work the ridge along the base of your skull, frictioning side to side in small sections, again holding on any tight, tender spots.

It is a great idea to mobilize your neck in pain free range after loosening it.  Try doing shoulder checks side to side, repeating a minimum of ten times each side.  Then drop ear to shoulder, alternating side to side, again minimum ten times each side.

Lastly, try to keep your neck warm for a few days.  Wear a hoodie or scarf outside, be cautious of sleeping by an open window, as cool breezes at night can often flare neck tension, and possibly be the cause of it in the first place!

With these few simple techniques you can help decrease down time and get back to normal neck function!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Nectarine and Swiss Chard Smoothie


1 cup water
2 nectarines – make sure they are ripe!
1 banana
½ to ¾ cup blackberries
½ bunch Swiss Chard – about 10 leaves

Blend well and enjoy!  You can add a few ice cubes too!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hamstring Trigger Points


The hamstring muscle group is made up of three muscles, the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus.  They run from the ischial tuberosity (sit bones) down to the sides of the knees, just below the joint.  The semitendinosus and semimembranosus attach on the medial side, and the biceps femoris attaches on the lateral side.

The hamstrings function is mostly to extend the hip and flex the knee.  They help keep you upright against gravity by holding your body from flexing forward at the hip.

These muscles are crucial for most upright activities, including dancing, running, walking, jumping and as already mentioned, and bending forward. 

Trigger points can flare in the hamstring group due to prolonged bed rest with flexed knees, or from sitting in a chair too long, especially if the front edge of the chair is pressing into them.  They can also be overloaded with repetitive movements.

Trigger points pain is usually felt in the lower buttock and posteromedial thigh, and even down to the medial upper half of the calf.  The biceps femoris will refer pain to the posterolateral side, and usually doesn’t extend as far into the calf.

Pain is often worse when sitting and walking, and can disrupt sleep.

Be cautious when choosing your chairs, especially lawn furniture that has a wooden or metal frame with a soft webbed or woven cushion on top, or bar stools without a footrest.  Children are also at risk if sitting in a firm chair without the ability to rest their feet on the floor or footrest.

Try to change positions whenever possible during long car rides.  Drivers can use cruise control if they have it so that they can change leg positions slightly at regular intervals.

Keep your hamstrings loose by stretching them out, rolling them with a foam roller, or kneading them with a tennis ball (just sit on it and roll around a little).
Warm baths are a great place to do a seated hamstring stretch!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Side slides


Side slides are an excellent and fun exercise to tone your inner thigh muscles.  They are best done on a smooth surface such as tile or laminate, wearing good work out shoes.  Start in a standing position, feet together with toes turned out slightly (Charlie Chaplin type stance).  Lunge out to the right side into a half squat, and then lightly drag your left foot over to the right, as you straighten up to starting position. 

Repeat the same to the left side.  Do 1 to 3 sets of 12 reps, and feel the burn!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sit Less, Live More


We all know that sitting for prolonged periods of time is not good for us.  It puts pressure on our spine, compresses the backs of our legs, and often means we are also slouching over a computer or into a couch.  Did you know, however, that just the act of sitting for hours on end, aside from ergonomic issues, increases your chances of having a heart attack by about 50%?

According to a study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, lifestyles of 17,000 people were followed for 13 years, and it found that there was a 54% higher chance of dying from a heart attack for those who sat for long periods of the day.  

It didn’t make a difference if the people smoked or exercised; the results were still the same.

As soon as you sit down, your leg muscles literally stop firing, and calorie burning drops to 1 calorie per minute.  This means that during an eight-hour shift at work, you burn only 480 calories. 

It’s not just the sluggish metabolism that is affected, however, as sitting also causes reductions in enzyme activity, drops good cholesterol levels, and reduces insulin effectiveness, not to mention the flat butt!

In all seriousness though, if you work at a desk all day you might be feeling a little helpless right now, but there are things you can do!

First of all, any time you can stand up, do it.  Even if you literally just stand up and then sit right back down again.  Stand up when you are talking on the phone, march in place if you can, take frequent short breaks to walk the stairs, or just stretch and mobilize your body.
Even tapping your toes or doing calf raises at your desk while sitting will make a big difference if done regularly through the day.  We were always told not to fidget as children, but it is actually a great thing to do!  Move your torso in the chair, move your legs around, do shoulder circles, just keep moving.

If you have regular meetings at work, see if you can have everyone stand either during the meeting, or before and after.  Make it a company policy to add a little movement to your day.  It will actually boost productivity.

There are even little rubber discs (Sissel Sit-Fit) that you put on your office chair to help you engage muscles while in the seated position.  Another option, although more cumbersome is to use a physio ball to sit on, again your core muscles must be active to keep you upright on them while seated.

After work, please don’t go home and sit in front of the computer or television.  If you must watch TV, stand up and fold laundry, clean, sweep the floors, do gentle exercising, or march in place.  Use TV time as catch up time on chores, or exercise time. 

We all have to sit, but if there is an option to stand, or walk, or move, think of your health and take the opportunity!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Favorite Snack Recipes


Many people are more active as the weather gets nicer, and so your appetite increases.  If you don’t have wholesome snacks on hand, it can be too tempting to grab something quick and processed.  Keep a few of these ready, and you don’t have to worry about blowing your healthy eating this summer, just because you are starving and want food NOW!

1)    Lettuce leaves or celery sticks spread with almond butter
2)    Date (pitted), stuffed with a couple of almonds or walnuts
3)    Carrot and broccoli sticks dipped in hummus
4)    Chia seed, hemp seed and buckwheat groats (1 TBSP each) mixed with coconut milk – allow to sit for a few minutes to let chia expand and thicken.  Mix and enjoy!  Try with fresh berries or banana – yum!
5)    Plain organic yogurt mixed with berries and hemp seeds or freshly ground flax seeds
6)    Rye crisp crackers with sardines or salmon and fresh sprouts

All of these options will give you a nice mix of protein, carbohydrate and fat to keep you going during active spring and summer days!  Just remember to drink your water too!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Repetitive Strain Injuries


Almost everyone has suffered with repetitive strain injuries at one time or another.  Conditions like rotator cuff tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, carpal tunnel and iliotibial band syndrome are very common and end up becoming a chronic issue for many people.

According to Paul Ingraham (http://www.saveyourself.ca), there are 5 important facts about repetitive strain that everyone should know.  These tips will help you in understanding what exactly you are dealing with, and therefore aid in your recovery! 

First and foremost, most of the conditions we consider tendinitis (meaning tendon – inflammation) have nothing to do with inflammation!  The tendon is degenerating due to overuse, but isn’t actually inflamed.  This means that common treatments, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, topical creams and ice have little or no effect on the problem.

Second, although it is often thought that many overuse issues develop due to biomechanical abnormalities (leg length discrepancies, tilted pelvis, scoliosis), the real issue is overuse of the body part, plain and simple. 

I can’t tell you how many times someone has come into my office and told me that another health care professional told them that their right shoulder is lower than their left, as if this somehow proves that their entire body is out of alignment.  Usually all it proves is that they are right handed, and have hung their purse or back pack off their right shoulder for years.  If we were meant to live our lives with perfect posture, we would all be ambidextrous. 

This doesn’t mean that you can do any activity you want without paying attention to proper form, but you aren’t predisposed to injury just because you have a mild curve in your spine.

Third, overworked, degenerating tissues need time to heal.  Rest and avoidance of the repetitive activity is required (in most cases) if you want the area to heal.  Basically repetitive strain injuries occur when the break down of tissues from activity exceeds your body’s ability to heal it.  The logical way to reverse this then is to allow your body time to heal, while avoiding anything that contributes to the break down. 

This simple fix can be very hard to implement in many cases, because if it is work related, most people can’t easily take weeks or months off work.  If it is activity related (running or tennis, as examples), it can be difficult to stop doing the things you love the most.  Think about it this way, you can either take three months off now, and then work your way back up to your current level of fitness, or you can suffer for years possibly, thereby never really enjoying the activities you used to love.  Seems like a no-brainer to me!

The fourth point to consider is that every tendon is connected to a muscle, and those muscles can harbor trigger points, which can mimic, predispose to or exacerbate symptoms of repetitive overuse injuries.  Muscle tightness and trigger points can also be exacerbated themselves by repetitive strain injuries.  This can be an interesting little cycle – sometimes a tight muscle can predispose you to developing a repetitive strain injury, which then causes muscle tightness!

The final point to consider when tackling your tendinitis is that it is frustrating, scary, and stressful, and this emotional component can actually make the severity of the pain increase.  Remember last month, when I was talking about the brain controlling pain.  It isn’t just that your brain interprets pain as more intense, anxiety can actually change the way your central nervous system perceives pain, making you more sensitive to it.

So what is the take home message here?  If you are suffering with a repetitive strain injury, rest the area for as long a period as possible, realizing that full recovery could take months.  Try getting some muscle and trigger point massage to help alleviate tight unhealthy muscles around the area.  Finally, keep yourself as healthy as possible, and know that your body will do what it needs to in order to heal itself.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Balance Exercise


Improve your balance by standing on one leg whenever you can.  This helps keep all of your little stabilizing muscles strong, helps maintain the arches in your feet, and obviously helps improve your balance! 
Practice standing first, and then progress to squats, lean forward and back, and even do little hops.  Don’t forget to work both sides!
This is a great exercise if you have weak arches or have ever sprained or broken an ankle (just don’t try it until you are fully healed!).

Quinoa Salad


This salad is a meal unto itself. 

·      1 cup quinoa – cooked
·      ¼ small red onion – chopped
·      ¼ bunch cilantro – chopped
·      1 can black beans – drained
·      1 mango – chopped
·      1 small head broccoli – chopped into small pieces
·      2 TBSP olive oil
·      1 TBSP lemon
·      pepper to taste
·       
Simply mix all ingredients in a big bowl.  Add anything else you think might taste yummy.  This can also be used as filling for a wrap, either in lettuce leaves, tortilla shells, or nori sheets.  Leftovers can be lightly stir fried in olive oil if you don’t like having the same things two days in a row!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Brain Controls your Pain


I am sure you have all noticed how when you do something like accidentally poke your finger with a pin, it takes a few seconds for you to actually feel the pain.  This is because the impulses from the injury are sent to the brain via nerves in the tip of your finger.  These impulses are then analyzed and interpreted, and it is only when your brain decides that yes, this is a threat, that it will send the pain response down to your finger so that you react accordingly.  In this case that reaction would be to pull your finger away from the pin, and not do it again!

So technically, your finger doesn’t hurt until your brain tells it to.  It is the brain that controls the pain.

You can see this phenomenon with young children.  Toddler A falls down, bumps his or her head on a chair, and simply carries on with whatever it was they were doing without much reaction at all.

The nerve endings in the area of the head that was bumped sent signals to the brain, but the brain can tell by the nerve impulses sent that there is no open wound or internal tissue damage warranting an inflammatory response, and the child has no reason to interpret the incident as a threat yet, so his/her brain simply dismisses the incident with no further communication.

This same incident happens to Toddler B and a bawling breakdown ensues.  This can be due often times to an over reactive grown up, either scaring the child with the way they handle a simple little bump on the head, or a learned reaction stemming from the way they dealt with a previous incident.  Also, if there was an incident earlier in the child’s life where actual injury did occur, they may interpret this much lesser, trivial bump as a much larger concern.

This can also explain to some degree why people in the heat of battle, or athletes in competition can do amazing things while obviously injured.  Their brain either hasn’t had time to assimilate all the stimuli it is receiving, or possibly has some way of shutting down the communication in times of extreme peril.  There isn’t much point in knowing your toe hurts when you are in danger of being caught by a crocodile!

So what I am trying to say here is that your brain controls pain.  It either tells you that something hurts, or it doesn’t.  And the brain is a crazily complex neurological marvel, which can take learned behavior, personal beliefs and ideas and mix those up with innate programming, and spit out a completely unique personal interpretation of any given situation.  Which basically means that no one experiences the same situation in the same way.

So what is painful or scary or stress-full to you might be a walk in the park to someone else.

It is plausible then, that some cases of pain are actually manifestations of our own interpretations of a situation.  We assume that things will hurt in certain situations; your neck will be sore after a car accident, your back will hurt if you shoveled gravel all day, your knees should hurt because you were told there are arthritic changes showing on X Ray.

If you believe statements such as these, your brain will use that information when interpreting signals it receives constantly from different parts of your body.  You may actually be setting yourself up for pain that isn’t even there!  Sometimes that old saying “It’s all in your brain” could actually be true!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Simple Soup Recipe


Have some vegetables left in the crisper that you don’t know what to do with?  Chop ‘em up, put ‘em in a pot, and make some soup!  This recipe takes about 10 minutes to prepare, 10 minutes to cook, and that’s it!  Who says you can’t make a healthy home cooked meal in minutes!

3 carrots – chopped
½ head cauliflower – chopped
¼ head cabbage – chopped
4 potatoes – cubed
19 oz can tomatoes
4 cups water, or vegetable or other stock
pepper to taste
Mrs. Dash, Montreal Steak Spice, or your favorite spice mix

That’s it – put it in a pot and simmer until tender.  You can add anything you want to this, onions, garlic, beans, lentils, leftover meat, tofu, other veggies, anything you want.  Or just enjoy as is, simple fast and yummy!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Self Massage Muscle Aches and Trigger Points


I wanted to tell you today about the Acuball, which is now have available in the office.  The Acuball is a fantastic tool to have in your home care kit to self massage muscle aches and trigger points, and they can be heated!

The large ball can be heated either in the microwave, or in a pot of boiling water.  The heat provided is not super hot, but a very comforting warmth that slowly penetrates into your muscles, soothing and relaxing the outer layers of musculature, while the knobby curves of the ball stretch and release trigger points and tight tissues.

The large ball has a small groove in the middle of it, allowing you can lie down on it, placing the groove along your spine, so that you can work the muscles on either side of the spine without putting pressure on your spinous processes.  This is a great way to release the tissues in your low back.  Simply lie on your back, knees bent and feet on the floor.  I recommend starting on a soft surface such as a bed or sofa, or you can try a carpeted floor or yoga mat if you want a more intense release. 

Get the ball into position by lifting your hips off the floor, and place the ball in the small of your back, making sure that the groove is running parallel along your spine, and slowly relax down onto it.  Take a few deep breaths as you relax onto the ball, and stay there for a few minutes.  This is intense, so relax and give it a few minutes to let the muscles loosen.  If you have instability issues with your lower spine, please check with a health care professional before trying this.

This technique works well between the shoulders and neck level also.  My favorite thing to do is start with the ball at the base of the skull, take a few deep breaths, feel the release, and then move your body up just slightly, so that you creep up on the ball and it thereby moves slightly further down your spine.  Relax again, and continue moving up, and inch or two at a time, as the ball slowly moves down your spine, releasing segment by segment.  In ten minutes it will feel like you have had an hour massage!

The large ball is also great for releasing tight hamstrings.  Simply place it under your leg while sitting on a firm chair, and feel those trigger points melt away!

The Acuball Mini is wonderful for more specific work between shoulders, feet, temples, forearms, hips, pectorals, or practically anywhere!  You can put it into a long sock and lean against a wall onto it, lie on it, or simply press it into areas such as quads or forearms.  Use is just like you would a tennis ball.

The Mini is heated in boiling water for 10 minutes, but cannot be used in the microwave.

They both also work great without being heated, so you can take them with you anywhere!

These ingenious little trigger point terminators are fantastic, and I highly recommend picking yourself up a pair soon.  I will be re-ordering soon, but do still have a few left in stock if you don’t want to wait!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Green Cleanse Smoothie


Ah yes, time for another smoothie recipe!  This one will be the perfect remedy to an overindulgent season!  It is chock full of cleansing, alkalizing fruits and veggies to help clear out those pipes and get you out of the rich food blues!

1 apple – core and chop
1 lemon – I put the whole thing in, but if you are a little apprehensive then just use the juice
½ cup blueberries
½ cucumber
½ head romaine lettuce
½ bunch parsley

Just drop it all in the blender, add a tiny bit of water if needed, and blend until smooth.  It is like taking a scouring pad to the inside of your body – you will feel pure and clean after!

Note: this is a fairly advanced smoothie, as far as taste and texture go.  If you have been making them regularly then you will enjoy this one.  If you are new to smoothies, you might want to break yourself in slower, and try banana, blueberry and romaine to start.  Once you acquire a taste for green drinks, you can cut back on the higher sugar fruits, and increase the veggies for even more health benefits!

If you would like more great green smoothie recipes, please visit  Simple and Scrumptious Green Smoothies

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Health Prevention and Maintenance


Our society is so “cure-fixated”, that we seem to forget
that we can actually prevent things from happening in the
first place.

It is well known that many of today’s diseases are at least
partially lifestyle related.  Many forms of cancer, Type 2
diabetes, heart disease, digestive disorders, and obesity,
just to name a few, are more prevalent in developed Western
societies.  

Our reliance on the drug industry allows for abuse.  It
doesn’t matter what we eat, drink or do anymore, because if
we get sick, there is a drug for that.

But our health care system is going to reach a breaking
point soon (or has it already?)  And will there be a “cure”
for that?

I have many clients who come in for massage therapy on a
regular basis, not because they are in pain, but because
they want to avoid it.  So many times we will find tense
tender muscles, and release the tissues before they get to
the point that they become an issue.

The other approach is to wait until you are feeling pain,
and then come for treatments.  Although this works too, it
often takes many more treatments to get things back to
normal.

This process works the same in other health situations. 
Lets use type 2 diabetes for example.  If you eat a low
glycemic diet with emphasis on fresh vegetables, fruits,
nuts and seeds, have regular meals and exercise regularly,
you should be able to avoid ever having to worry about
diabetes.  

If, on the contrary, you eat the way most do in this part of
the world, you are a diabetic ticking time bomb.  Once the
disease has taken hold, it is much harder to maintain or
improve through diet and exercise alone.

Think about all the things in your daily life needing
regular maintenance to prevent deterioration.  Garden beds,
vehicles, relationships, homes, appliances, teeth, muscles,
bodies, the list is endless.  Just imagine what would happen
if you stopped maintaining these things.  They might
continue to function for a while, but all will fail sooner
or later, and take much more energy to get back to its
original state, if it is even possible!

In this time of excess, please take a step back and ask if
what you are about to do or ingest might help preserve your
health, or contribute to its slow destruction.