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Combining Massage and Chiropractic

January 28, 2015

Person with aching spineHave you noticed that many chiropractors are hiring massage therapists? Has your chiropractor suggested massage may help? Many clients are finding that combining massage and chiropractic adjustments can speed recovery from injuries or limited mobility.

The musculoskeletal system is a marvel of cooperation and support. Bones provide strength, protection and structure, and muscles and fascia provide movement. Muscles are attached to the bones by tendons. When muscles become shortened or tight, they increase the tension on their attachment points and can actually pull the bone from its natural position.

Similarly, spinal misalignments can create pain patterns that cause a compensatory adjustment in posture that results in contracted muscles when they should be relaxed. Trigger points form. Before you know it, you have a vicious cycle of misalignment and pain.

Sitting at a computer, driving for long periods, and digging in the garden are just a few activities that can cause poor posture and muscle strain. For example, if you work at a desk or computer terminal all day, your trapezius muscles could shorten. This in turn could cause your cervical spine to misalign and cause pressure on disks and nerves. The postural problems become cyclical. The shortened muscles compress the spine and the spinal misalignment causes the muscles to splint in order to avoid additional injury. This is one instance both massage and chiropractic can help.

Massage supports chiropractic. Adjustments last longer because it releases muscle tension that might otherwise pull your joints into misalignment again, and it helps the adjustment to proceed with less discomfort when the soft tissues have been relaxed. It helps you recover more quickly by stimulating the circulation and thus bringing healing blood and nutrients to the pain site. Finally, it can help you relax before your chiropractic adjustment.

Similarly, chiropractic supports massage. Joint mobilization received during an adjustment can help relax the deepest layers of soft tissue that are sometimes difficult to comfortably reach during a massage, and the tissues around and misalignment often heal quickly once they are not longer trying to splint a misaligned joint. Finally, a chiropractor can use other diagnostic tools like x-rays to rule out other causes of pain.

As more and more clients discover the benefits of complimentary medicine, they are touting the combined benefits of massage and chiropractic. These natural therapies focus on treating the cause of pain rather than the symptoms and emphasize preventative care as well as pain relief. They are holistic therapies that are safe and effective and can work as alternatives to drugs or on conjunction with more traditional, allopathic treatments. Used together, they can help you achieve your optimum health and wellness goals.

Massage Cupping: Using Reverse Pressure to Relieve Pain

October 14, 2014
therapist massage cupping a client

Massage Cupping uses reverse pressure to release adhesions and relieve pain.

Massage cupping is an exciting modality with a wide range of benefits.

If you get acupuncture, you’ve probably been cupped as a part of your Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment. Massage cupping is a bit different in that the vacuum in the cup is created with a pump rather than with fire. Likewise, the cup is moved around on the body instead of being parked for a long period of time as it is in TCM.

There are many benefits to cupping. The pressure on the tissues pulls them up rather than pressing them down toward the bone as in regular massage. This is called reverse pressure. Cupping clears stagnation, drains and moves lymph and other fluids, relieves inflammation, expels congestion, and sedates the nervous system. It enables the therapist to do deep work with less discomfort to the client.

Cupping is helpful for a variety of conditions, including fibromyalgia, neuralgia, sciatica, edema, respiratory congestion, headache, sluggish colon, anxiety, insomnia, and scarring, to name a few. It can usually be added to your normal massage with no additional cost.

On the other hand, massage cupping can be a stand-alone treatment and is especially popular when combined with aromatherapy in a treatment called the Aromatherapy Cocoon Bodywrap. When done in a series of eight treatments over four weeks, the Aromatherapy Cocoon Bodywrap has been helpful in treating smoking cessation and weight reduction. The oils chosen for the sessions are very specific and therapeutic in their effect on the body.

Another popular treatment is the facelift massage, which can be combined with the Bodywrap or with the Bellanina Honeylift product. The negative pressure on the face and neck can bring nourishing circulation to the skin surface, stimulate collagen and elastin production, smooth fine lines, release tight facial muscles, and drain stagnant lymph that causes puffiness. A similar therapy can help the sinuses to drain more effectively although this should not be done if there is active infection in the sinuses. However, clients should understand that this is a massage treatment, not a facial.

If you are interested in the benefits of massage cupping, please speak to your therapist. Call  Suzanne Eller at 828-310-0161.

Your Body Won’t Take Care Of Itself

September 9, 2014

Jibber Jabber & Happenstance

And neither will your mind.

Taking care of ourselves physically and mentally/emotionally takes time and thought. If we don’t do it, it’s not going to happen on it’s own. If you are feeling headachy, stressed, anxious, depressed, tingly, heavy or whatever else, here is a list of things I’ve tried and have found success in getting myself back into physical and mental shape.

1. Get a massage – I mentioned this in another post not so long ago. Just do it. Get all your knots worked out. You’ll thank yourself.

2. Try acupuncture – Get your energies balanced so your body can function properly and you can feel calm and relaxed.

3. Go to a naturopathic doctor – Try some herbal supplements to regulate your body naturally and without side effects. When your body feels healthy, your mind will follow.

4. Get outside – Engage in physical activity. Go walking, jogging, biking…

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Piriformis Pain: How can one little muscle cause so much trouble?

July 27, 2014

According to WebMD, “The piriformis muscle is a flat, band-like muscle located in the buttocks near the top of the hip joint. This muscle is important in lower body movement because it stabilizes the hip joint and lifts and rotates the thigh away from the body. This enables us to walk, shift our weight from one foot to another, and maintain balance. It is also used in sports that involve lifting and rotating the thighs – in short, in almost every motion of the hips and legs.”

Gray's Anatomy Piriformis

Piriformis

The piriformis is prone to trigger points, and if it becomes taut enough, it can press on the sciatic nerve, which usually runs underneath it but sometimes can run through it. Trigger points in the piriformis or an entrapped sciatic nerve can refer pain all the way down the leg. A tight piriformis may also torque the low back causing lumbar area pain as well. It’s a small muscle, but it can cause tremendous problems if it becomes taut or irritated.

Any number of things can cause the piriformis to become taut. Chief among these is sitting in one position for too long. If you have a job that requires sitting at a desk all day, chances are you know what a tight piriformis feels like. Likewise, activities that require climbing or repetitive motions like running, especially over uneven ground, can cause piriformis pain.

Massage is one of the best cures for piriformis pain, especially if you don’t wait until it becomes chronic. You can also use self-care strategies like rolling and pressing a tennis ball over the site or using a SacroWedgy®.

There a a number of good stretches for the piriformis as well. One is to lie on your back and to bend the knees. Cross the right leg over the left at the knee. Clasp your hands behind the bottom knee and pull both legs toward the chest. You should feel the stretch in the buttocks of the crossed leg. Repeat on the other side.

A variation of the above stretch is to sit in an chair, crossing your legs with one ankle over the knee of the other leg. Keeping your back straight, lean forward until you feel the stretch.

Another stretch is to kneel on the floor on hands and knees. Tuck the right knee under the body so that knee is in line with the left shoulder and straighten the left leg. Press the hips to the right until a gentle pull is felt in the right buttock. Repeat on the other side.

You don’t have to suffer with piriformis pain. Massage and self-care can keep you moving and help you avoid more serious problems like sciatic nerve entrapment.

Massage and Mental Health

July 29, 2013
woman getting massage

The skin is our largest sensory organ. Massage can create a sense of peace and well-being through the power of touch.

It is sometimes easy to emphasize the physical benefits of massage and forget the mental health benefits of regular bodywork. The physical benefits are more immediately recognizable, but the mental benefits can be more lasting.

Numerous clinical trials have evaluated the effects of massage on mental and emotional health, and the results are impressive. For example, studies indicate that massage and psychotherapy given to women suffering from postpartum depression had significantly greater improvement in both depression and anxiety than did groups who received only psychotherapy.
 
Similar results were found for individuals other than new mothers suffering from depression and anxiety. Other studies indicate that massage may help people who suffer from ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, and bipolar disorder, to name a few.
 
Jacqueline Young, author of Complementary Medicine For Dummies, (London: Wiley Publishing, 2007) gives evidence for the efficacy of massage in treating those with eating disorders. She says more and more clinics treating anorexia and bulimia are finding that massage helps clients reduce anxiety about their appearance and improve their body image.
 
Massage reduces levels of stress hormones, especially cortisol (which, by the way, can make you fat!) It increases the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”) and decreases the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”). Improved parasympathetic response means greater availability of brain chemicals like serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins (natural painkillers).
 
Another benefit of massage is to meet our need for safe, human touch. Human beings can literally die without human touch, and studies have shown the devastating lack of emotional development in babies who are not adequately held and cuddled. Still, we live in a world where those who touch inappropriately have caused all of us to be a little suspect of too much touching. When there is a lack of touch in a person’s life, massage can fill the void and create peace-of-mind. Overall well-being is enhanced.
 
Massage provides the following mental health benefits:
  • Increases mental alertness and improves concentration and memory.
  • Reduces anxiety and increases sense of overall well-being and self-confidence.
  • Reduces stress hormone levels and increases production of mood-enhancing brain chemicals.
  • Provides an overall calming effect and lowers irritability.
  • Lowers brain wave activity to the alpha state, which provides a feeling of relaxation and increases creativity and organizational ability.
  • Calms the nervous system and improves synaptic response.
  • Relieves fatigue and renews energy levels.
 
There is also a relationship between mental health and physical ailments. Many of us carry stress in our bodies. Idioms like “he’s a pain in my neck” and “my job’s a headache” reflect physical responses to stress-causing people and situations. Massage can help relieve the stress before it manifests as a physical symptom.

Let Massage Help You Achieve Your Weight Loss Goals

January 19, 2012
woman measuring waist

Image: Luigi Diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If one of your New Year’s resolutions included losing a few pounds, you need to know about the benefits of regular massage. Massage reduces stress levels and can help your muscles release toxins after a workout.

 
As odd as it may seem, relaxation is key to losing weight. Studies indicate that long-term stress, not over-eating, may be at the root of many people’s inability to shed unwanted pounds.
 
The adrenal glands produce two hormones that come to our aid and trigger the “fight or flight” response. One of these is adrenaline, and the other is cortisol.
 
Cortisol’s job is to help your body produce more glucose from protein so that you have energy to confront or evade a threat. When cortisol is released as a response to run-of-the-mill, everyday stressors instead of a real “fight or flight” dangers, the excess glucose is converted to fat.

Typically, this cortisol fat is abdominal fat, which is one of the most dangerous kinds of fat to our health because it is related to greater danger of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and hypertension&emdash; all diseases that have a connection to stress.

Excess cortisol in the blood can also lead to depression, which in turn can lead to unhealthy emotional eating, especially of foods that ramp up production of the feel-good brain chemical, serotonin. Chocolate and most starchy carbs fall into this category.

Research in several studies indicates that even a 15 minute chair massage can reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol levels did not drop in control groups. Furthermore, reduction of cortisol acts to boost the immune system generally, decrease pain, and induce more restful sleep. Clearly, massage can be seen as preventative health care and not just as an indulgence.
 
Another way massage can help with weight-loss is by making workouts easier. Massage therapists can employ PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) stretches or other techniques to improve your range of motion. Likewise, massage works to increase circulation and lymphatic flow so that you can better release the waste products that build up during a workout. Improved circulation and lymphatic flow helps to heal the microscopic tears in the muscle fibers that come from unaccustomed exertion by taking oxygen and white blood cells to the site of injury. In fact, massage is an integral part of most professional athletes’ training regimen.
 
Releasing trigger points will also improve your range of motion and make workouts easier and their aftermath less painful. Trigger points are taut bands of muscle that inhibit movement and refer pain to other sites in the body. When the rest of the muscle relaxes, they stay contracted, and the result is pain.
 
Other massage techniques that helps you lose weight are lymphatic drainage and massage cupping, a technique that applies “reverse pressure” to the body, using glass or plastic suction cups that are massaged along problem areas in the direction of natural lymphatic flow. Both methods help the body release dead cells (including fat cells) and may stimulate sluggish metabolism.
 
Although it sounds contradictory to add a relaxation component to a weight-loss plan, massage has proven itself to help people reduce the stress that can cause weight gain and to improve athletic flexibility, performance and recovery time.

Sgt. Stubby: World War I Hero

May 21, 2011
sgt stubby

Sgt. Stubby won numerous medals and honors for his service and heroism.

One unusual World War I hero fought in seventeen battles, received a gold medal from the Supreme Commander of the Armed Services John “Blackjack” Pershing, and was honored by three presidents. He even has an exhibit in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.

His name is Sgt. Stubby, and he is a dog.
 
Stubby, a brindle and white pit bull-terrier mix with a stub tail, was adopted by Pvt. Robert Conroy after the pup wandered onto the military training ground of Yale University in the spring of 1917. Dogs were forbidden in military camps, but Stubby so lifted the morale of the soldiers that officials allowed him to stay.
 
Stubby was smart. He learned the meaning of the different bugle calls and marched with the soldiers on drill, keeping step with them. He even learned to salute by lifting his right paw to his right brow, following the lead of his fellow soldiers and saluting when they did so.
 
When the troops shipped out to France on the USS Minnesota, Pvt. Conroy smuggled Stubby aboard, hiding the dog in a coal bin until the ship was far at sea. Once on deck, Stubby quickly won the hearts of the sailors just as he had won over the soldiers. When the commanding officer discovered a dog on board ship, Stubby saluted, and the CO laughed then allowed Stubby to stay and participate in training drills.
 
When the regiment went to the frontlines of the Western Front, Stubby went with them, this time with a special order from the Colonel. Stubby quickly became the mascot of the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee division, and he soon proved his heroism.
 
During heavy fire, Stubby ran back and forth among the trenches, locating injured soldiers and barking until help arrived or leading others away from approaching bombs and shelling to safely (he could hear the bombs approach). His first injury was when he was exposed to poison gas and had to be sent to the field hospital. After he returned to the regiment, he was highly sensitive to the tiniest, trace odor of gas. Once, during an early morning gas launch while most of the soldiers were asleep, Stubby sniffed the odor of gas and ran through the trench barking and biting the legs of the troops until everyone was awake and able to don their gas masks. He saved their lives.
 
Stubby was also deemed a hero when he caught a German soldier crawling in the Allied trenches making maps. Stubby barked and clamped his teeth onto the enemy spy’s leg until his comrades arrived to take the spy into custody. For this act of heroism Stubby was promoted to Sergeant by the CO of the 102nd Infantry. He now outranked Conroy who had been promoted to Corporal.
 
Before the war was over, Stubby was injured again, this time by shrapnel from a grenade. He was sent to the Red Cross Recovery Hospital where he received treatment for chest and leg wounds. While recuperating, Stubby visited the other patients and cheered them, maintaining his role a morale-booster even when he was injured himself.
 
After the war, while still in France, Stubby lead the review parade of the American troops past President Woodrow Wilson. Later, he won lifetime membership in the American Legion and the American Red Cross. He marched in Legion parades and met Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge. Stubby’s person, Cpl. Conroy, attended Georgetown University where Stubby amused football fans during halftime by nudging the football around the field. Georgetown’s canine mascots still keep this tradition.
 
Stubby was awarded many medals, chevrons, and pins for his heroism, including a gold medal from the Humane Society. He wore his medals on a blanket “uniform” made during the war by the women of Chateau-Thierry, France. Today his uniform is displayed at the Smithsonian Institute in “The Price of Freedom” collection.
 
Sgt. Stubby died on March 16, 1926. His service to his country paved the road for military and civilian recognition of the value of canines in combat and for the creation, during World War II, of the first K-9 Corps. Sgt. Stubby is the “Grandfather of American War Dogs”.
 
This article also appears in our May 2011 newsletter.