Posts Tagged ‘Nerves’

 

“Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.”

Helen Keller

Do you suffer from chronic neck and upper shoulder pain on a regular basis and can’t figure out why? Perhaps you are one of the 66-90% of the population that suffers from a very common condition know as Forward Head Posture (FHP).42lbhead_free

FHP can be recognized when, from a profile or side view, a person’s ear is positioned in front of the shoulder rather than directly over it – in proper posture. This condition caused by poor posture causes the head to lean forward and for every inch that the head falls forward the head gains 10lbs worth of weight on the muscles of the neck and shoulders. The addition strain causes these muscles to work much harder to hold the head from flopping forward. When this type of stress is put on muscles for a long period of time, the body reacts by laying down scar tissue in the muscle fibers for stability. The strain on the muscles and the addition of scar tissue limits flexibility and causes additional pressure on the nerves in the neck which increases pain and fatigue. If left untreated and FHP becomes severe enough, it will not only cause long duration tension headaches, but can also increase blood pressure, cause disc herniations, arthritis, pinched nerves, and even distortions in the eyes and ears that could lead to mental disorders.

Over a period of time, forward head posture can lead to a “hunchback” like Igor!

Over a period of time, forward head posture can lead to a “hunchback” like Igor!

There is hope in correcting FHP: starting by identifying the incorrect posture through postural analysis, the following step would be to stretch out the muscles the have become tightened then strengthen the weak muscles so that you are able to hold your head up in proper posture. It’s always good to seek the advice of a professional, such as a chiropractor, to ensure there aren’t any major skeletal problems as well as a massage therapist to help ease the tension in the muscles. The same professionals can show you the proper stretches and exercises to prevent the havoc of FHP!

 

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Have you ever wondered how it can be so easy for some people to do certain motions such as holding proper posture, swinging a golf club, or speaking a different language, when it seems so difficult for you? Maybe you are curious about how workouts become easier after a short period of time? The body has a process called Muscle Memory. Does this mean that each muscle has it’s own memory?

Muscle memory refers to brains ability to learn how do a movement, then recall those actions and send the correct nerve impulse down the spinal cord  to the neuromuscular junctions where the nerve meets the muscle telling it how to move. Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., fitness research director at Quincy College in Massachusetts explains that “your brain creates pathways through your central nervous system, and movements become automatic.”
Nerve impulses follow the path of least resistance and this is why it can be difficult and even painful to learn new movements. As muscles weaken, become injured, or are put in compromised positions such as bad posture, they become bound by toxins and scar tissues that limit movement. The fewer resistance in the muscles the easier it becomes to retrain muscle memory and less painful the process will be.

A NeuroMuscular Junction is where the nerve meets and muscle. This is where the brain tells the muscle when and how to move.

A NeuroMuscular Junction is where the nerve meets and muscle. This is where the brain tells the muscle when and how to move.

Most people suggest working through the pain and difficulty, but you don’t necessarily have to take that route. Therapeutic massage and proper flexibility training helps to break down scar tissue and assists in removal of metabolic waste build up in the muscles. This allows for easier training of the muscle memory, so if you are starting a new workout, wanting to optimize your performance, or more importantly improve your posture try adding regular massage therapy and a good stretching routine into your regiment to improve your memory!

 

“The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.”

Voltaire

This morning on a commercial break while watching the news I watched 3 back to back ads for over-the-counter pain medications. First off, I was baffled as to why they would play 3 different ads for the same product and secondly I was taken away by the fact that there are people out there take take OTC pain meds multiple times on a daily basis!

As soon as I could, I had to get to a computer and do some research and what I found was quite mind-blowing. Pain killers are the number one purchased OTC drug and many that are taking these pain killers are misusing them. In a study done by WebMD, it showed that ” nearly half of the 175 million adults who take over-the-counter pain relievers admit to exceeding the recommended dose, and few are aware of the potential risks.” The same research informs that “16,500 people die and 103,000 are hospitalized each year because of NSAID-related problems.”

over-the-counter pain killers can help manage but over time they do more bad than good.

over-the-counter pain killers can help manage but over time they do more bad than good.

Just like almost all medications that are ingested in pill form, they have to be processed by the liver and after time of continual use of the drugs, the liver can start having problems of it’s own. In addition, after repetitive use of drugs, the body adapts to the medication and more is require to achieve the same result. You can easily see how this is very unsafe and can potentially be fatal.

Low Back pain is at the top of the list for the needs of pain medications

Low Back pain is at the top of the list for the needs of pain medications

Now I’m not knocking pain medication all together, but there should be no real reason that you have to take it on a daily basis. After all, the medication only treats the symptoms not the cause. To really be effective you need to try and figure out the cause and then treat appropriately. In my experience as a massage therapist, I have found that many people are taking pain medications due to low back pain and severe headaches. In many of these cases these conditions are accompanied by poor posture. Without getting to in depth (I will save that for another BLOG), when the body starts loosing it’s correct posture, structures start to shift. Muscles on one side of the body become tight and on the other side of the body become overstretched. This in itself can cause significant and noticeable pain, but add to that when the muscular imbalance occurs that joints that were meant to move smoothly become compressed and dysfunctional. Blood vessels and nerves can become compressed if the postural alignment is to far from the norm.

Overuse and Misuse of OTC pain killers can cause serious Liver damage.

Overuse and Misuse of OTC pain killers can cause serious Liver damage.

You will read many articles that dispute the fact that there is no scientific research or proof that pain has anything to do with improper posture, but I say find out for yourself. Massage Therapy has been proven to relieve pain in the muscle fibers as well as alleviate headaches and help to restore posture, all with no real negative side effects. Ask any person who has received a massage if they felt better afterwards and if their pain was reduced and that should be proof enough that therapeutic massage is a better option than consistently over using OTC pain killers. It’s natural, it has been used for thousands of years, and it gets results!

“Memory…is the diary that we all carry about with us.”

-Oscar Wilde

Have you ever wondered how it can be so easy for some people to do certain motions such as holding proper posture, swinging a golf club, or speaking a different language, when it seems so difficult for you? Maybe you are curious about how workouts become easier after a short period of time? The body has a process called Muscle Memory. Does this mean that each muscle has it’s own memory?

Muscle memory refers to brains ability to learn how do a movement, then recall those actions and send the correct nerve impulse down the spinal cord  to the neuromuscular junctions where the nerve meets the muscle telling it how to move. Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., fitness research director at Quincy College in Massachusetts explains that “your brain creates pathways through your central nervous system, and movements become automatic.”
Nerve impulses follow the path of least resistance and this is why it can be difficult and even painful to learn new movements. As muscles weaken, become injured, or are put in compromised positions such as bad posture, they become bound by toxins and scar tissues that limit movement. The fewer resistance in the muscles the easier it becomes to retrain muscle memory and less painful the process will be.

The brain sends signals down the spinal cord to tell the muscles what to do...don't let poor posture and toxins get in the way!!

The brain sends signals down the spinal cord to tell the muscles what to do…don’t let poor posture and toxins get in the way!!

Most people suggest working through the pain and difficulty, but you don’t necessarily have to take that route. Therapeutic massage and proper flexibility training helps to break down scar tissue and assists in removal of metabolic waste build up in the muscles. This allows for easier training of the muscle memory, so if you are starting a new workout, wanting to optimize your performance, or more importantly improve your posture try adding regular massage therapy and a good stretching routine into your regiment to improve your memory!

 

“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.”
– Charles Dickens

Whether it’s  from my students, my clients, or my friends and family, I often get asked  how do I know how much pressure is the right amount of pressure to use when applying massage therapy? The easy answer to the  question is an understanding of Tactile Sense.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word Tactile as “perceptible by touch”. What this means to us  is the ability to identify the smallest changes in the underlying muscle tissue by simply using our touch receptors. This concept is important for both therapist and client. Always remember that the client controls the depth or distance into the muscle fiber that is allowed during a massage session. The therapist is responsible for the amount of pressure used during the session. If too much pressure is used by the therapist, the client’s nerves respond in pain and cause a recoil  causing the muscle to tense. A tensing muscle and causing pain is the exact opposite of the goals we are trying to achieve through massage.

Developing Tactile sense isn’t always the easiest task, but it is very important to have a successful massage treatment. In my 9 years of treatment, I have noticed that certain therapists have the “knack” and some don’t. For the ones that can’t get a grasp of the sense, there  are a couple tips I always suggest. The first is to close your eyes then continue the massage at a slow rate really paying attention to the composition of the muscle texture and making note of even the slightest changes. The other tip is to pay  attention to the body language of the client to notice if they are holding their breath or tensing up other parts of the body. These actions will limit the “change” in muscle texture making it much more difficult for the muscles to shift from a tense state to a relaxed state, if any shift at all.

When developing the sense it is also very important to keep your client included. Any changes that are noticed should be legitimized on both ends. If a client seems to be too tense, then the pressure by the therapist may need to be reduced or the client may need to take several deep breaths and focus on relaxing the muscles by letting the “fall” away from the body. When the client is able to identify muscular changes then the treatment will become more effective and longer lasting because they are noticing and allowing the change rather than resisting. Whatever position you may be in, be sure to pay attention the the muscular changes. I like to compare the texture changes in muscle fibers to subtle changes in pressure when you opening a bottle of soda slowly. You notice how as the built up pressure is released slightly as you carefully open the top, the bottle itself becomes more pliable and easy to move just  like muscle tissue during a massage.

Whether you are a therapist or a client, the fine tuning of Tactile Sense is a key part of achieving the  desired results in a therapeutic massage session. If you are a client, don’t be afraid to discuss this concept with your therapist to better your treatment. If you are a therapist and are having troubles with the sense, I suggest asking other therapists for tips, or trying the tips I listed above so that you can provide the best result for your clientele. Feel free to leave any other tips you may have in understanding tactile sense. Questions are always welcomed as well!

“You are precisely as big as what you love and precisely as small as what you allow to annoy you.”
– Robert Anton Wilson

I was recently asked, “why would  my muscles be tender to touch and achy even if I haven’t injured myself ?” The truth is that there is more than one reason. Poor posture and unhealthy diet top the list and are the two more important reasons that I would like to briefly discuss today.

The muscles in the human body are designed to move fluidly through a designated range of motion where they will hold the body in proper posture. Due to our jobs and lifestyles, our posture deviates from the “proper” form and causes our muscles to overcompensate to regain the posture. When the posture can’t be achieved because the muscles aren’t strong enough, the body lays down scar tissue and causes the muscles to stay in spasm and act as a “cast” to avoid from deviating any further from the norm.  Muscles that are in constant spasm become over worked and fatigued which annoy the nerves that innervate with the muscles. Irritated nerves become highly sensitive to touch, in fact too much aggravation to the nerves will cause the muscle to increase spasm and start the cycle over again. If this cycle continues over and over again, it will soon effect more of the body’s function that just the muscle.

Unhealthy diet can also contribute to nerve annoyances in the muscles, causing them to be overly tender to the touch.  In today’s world, most foods that are purchased are filled with synthetic additives, preservatives, and harmful chemicals. Consumption of these foods effect our bodies from the cellular level in our digestive tract and has a domino effect to our brain and muscle fibers. Think of  the internal body as an open cut in the skin and now think of the foods of an unhealthy diet as dirt. When a wound in the skin is kept clean it heals quickly with little scarring but on the other hand if the wound is dirty then there is a high risk for pain and infection. When you eat poorly the internal pain associated with that diet can even cause you to deviate from your proper posture as well. It’s easy to see that the better you eat, the better you feel overall.

Sensitive muscles that are tender to the touch can quickly become annoying to the point of effecting your everyday life. The goal to avoid this is to remove the root cause. You can easily alter your diet to keep your insides healthy. As far as posture goes, it would be best to start with professional analysis to identify the postural defects. The next step would be to help realign posture. Stretching, Strength Training, and Therapeutic Massage are great ways to  achieve these goals. Stretching the appropriate muscles that have been tightened and shortened due to poor posture, as well as strengthening core muscles – as well as all other stabilizing muscles in the body will help to keep the body in it’s proper posture. These tasks alone can be daunting and troublesome and this is where therapeutic massage can make a difference. Many know that massage can help to reduce tension in the muscles and stretch muscle fibers, but what most don’t understand is that massage can stimulate weak muscles to activate and help flush unwanted toxins from the body. With this combination, you can live a life with minimal pain and discomfort.

“The greatest evil is physical pain.”
Sa
int Augustine


Have you ever found a bruise, cut, or even abrasion on your body and don’t know how it got there? Maybe you have had a massage in the past and your therapist worked on an area that you didn’t think was sore until there was pressure applied? For some this happens quite often, but why is it that we can avoid pain so easily sometimes, but other times we can’t?

    When we get injured or hurt there is a stimulus, the thing is, is that stimulus has to be strong enough to illicit a response from our nervous system. On the downside if the stimulus is too much, not only do we feel pain but our body responds by shutting down the injured area so that we don’t feel the pain anymore. Good thing right?! Not necessarily. If the area isn’t rehabilitated properly then the nerve signals stay shut off or distorted causing compensatory patterns to our muscles.
    Compensatory patterns are when the body recruits nearby muscles to assist with the movement and duties of the injured area and muscles. For the short term this is a good thing because it allows to injured area to start the repair process, but if left untreated and properly rehabilitated it will continue to hide the pain and cause an overload of work to the recruited muscles. The overload on the muscles will cause pain and additional recruitment and so on and so forth. You can see how this cycle can repeat until the body is in disarray.
    Just as you would go to your dentist for a check-up to find cavities or other issues that you can’t see or feel on your own, a licensed massage therapist is trained to find the imbalances in muscle tone and assist return proper posture and muscle tone. This is yet another benefit of regular visits to your massage therapist!