Archives for category: Back
I tell my clients time after time to listen to their body. One way to listen to your body is through Bodywork and Exercise. What does that mean? How do you listen to your body?
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It means you have to be aware of what your body is telling you. Do you need to stretch a little more? Do you need more water? Did you overdo it? Are you imbalanced on one side of your body? Regular Exercise and Bodywork both can keep you in tune with your body. Ever ask … “How’d you know I was hurting there?” or “I didn’t even know I was hurting there until you worked on it!” This is because of that disconnect between what is happening in the body and what the brain accepts as reality. My working on that area helps to bring that area to the forefront that your brain can know what’s going on there.
The following was written by by Ruth Werner
You have to give us credit: as a culture, Americans are incredibly interested in getting fit. We invest every year in new diets, exercise programs, and supplements for weight loss and improved energy. Low-range estimates suggest that Americans spend about $2.6 billion each year on gym memberships alone.
We also tend to pitch full speed into any given commitment. If we’re going to get fit, by golly, we’re going to do it now, regardless of how long it took us to get into our current state. We don’t do things by half measures, and moderation is not in our nature. So how do we keep ourselves injury-free while honoring our commitment to exercise and get healthy?

Does It Have to Be All or Nothing?
We all know that starting an exercise program doesn’t actually mean we’ll finish it. When we throw ourselves into an ambitious new routine, we are likely to overdo it and get hurt. Then, we get discouraged, and may give up entirely, only to start the cycle over in another year or so.
Overdoing things in the gym or on the sports field seems to appeal to our competitive spirit–especially when we’re surrounded by others who all seem to be doing better than we are. Combine this kind of human drive with poorly trained athletic trainers who give bad advice about form, pacing, and effort, and we have a recipe for potential problems.
Exercise is only effective when it occurs without injury. Any new exercise program requires some caution, even if it is comparatively easygoing. And more challenging programs are safest and most successful when new participants build up their activity levels carefully and receive excellent guidance about form.

When It Goes Wrong
We accrue musculoskeletal and fascial injuries throughout our entire lifespans. In the best circumstances, they heal well, with a minimum of internal scar tissue, and function returns to practically normal levels. When things are ideal, that sprained ankle you got playing soccer at age 12 doesn’t affect your ability to walk in your 30s. The lumbar strain you got from picking up the heavy laundry basket 15 years ago resolved well, so at 62, it won’t hinder your golf game. We are able to adapt to minor injuries, and we learn how not to exacerbate them.
But when we introduce a new exercise program, especially if that exercise program is more demanding, or demanding in different ways than we have experienced before, we risk the flaring up of old injuries. Scar tissue does not have the weight-bearing capacity of healthy muscle or connective tissue. This is when that old sprained ankle may make itself known, and that weakness in your back will definitely have opinions about your new routine. Sometimes you might feel like your new commitment to fitness was not the best idea.

Injuries Can Happen Any Time
CrossFit is one program that gets a lot of attention because of its reputation for being especially demanding. But any type of exercise can lead to injury if correct form is not observed. Zumba, Jazzercise, and other dance-like programs bring a risk of foot and leg injuries, including sprained ankles, plantar fasciitis, and stress fractures, because the risk for twisting at the knee is so high.
If you aren’t paying close attention to your own limits, even yoga can be a source of soft-tissue injury: delayed soreness, problems at the neck and sacroiliac joints, or other injuries. One massage therapist reported seeing several injuries related to a prolonged yoga headstand, probably in a student who was not ready for this challenge.

How Can Massage Help?
Massage can help you deal with pain or soreness from your exercise regimen and can also help shorten recovery periods so you can train more efficiently. Although massage therapists are not primary care providers, and cannot diagnose conditions or prescribe specific treatments, your therapist may be able to offer excellent advice for dealing with a fitness-related injury. He or she may also have suggestions about warm-ups, cool-downs, and postexercise stretching, or be able to point you to an appropriate coach or other professional for specific exercise needs and to help prevent future injury.
The incidence of exercise-related injury has a lot to do with people not paying attention to their own needs. One of the many things massage therapy offers to people who want to become healthier and more fit is the chance to become more aware of your own body in a powerfully positive way. Increased body awareness and self-appreciation may be the best tools for helping you increase activity levels without hurting yourself. In this way, you can reach your goals with power and joy, rather than with pain and injury.

Ruth Werner is a former massage therapist, a writer, and a continuing education provider. She wrote A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology(Lippincott Williams + Wilkins, 2013).

Discs1.jpgYour back consists of stacked bones called vertebrae. There are discs between the vertebrae that act as shock absorbers and that allow the spine to bend. Each disc consists of a soft semi-fluid center (the nucleus) that is surrounded and held together by strong ligaments.

The discs in your spine can be the source of a great deal of back pain. This pain can range from a nagging ache and sciatic discomfort to excruciating pain that incapacitates you. There are simple measures you can take to reduce the risk of disc problems occurring and to reduce your pain once problems do occur.

To understand how disc pain happens, it is important to understand normal posture. When standing upright there is a natural inward curve in the lower back called a lumbar lordosis. With this natural lordosis, your body weight is distributed evenly over the discs.

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The lordosis is lost whenever you slouch or bend forward. Back problems develop if you find yourself in these positions for long periods of time. This occurs because the vertebrae are placed in a position that pushes the nucleus backwards and stresses the ligaments at the back of the disc.

If the pressure on the ligaments is severe enough they may become weak and allow the soft inside part of the disc to bulge outward (prolapse) and press on the spinal nerves. This can cause sciatic pain in the buttock or down the leg.

Prevention is best

Ideally, you want to stop back pain from developing by taking some simple steps to reduce strain to your back.

Many chairs don’t offer sufficient support for your lower back. Even well designed chairs can be used improperly. For example, most people sit in the middle of the seat and then slouch backward against the back support.

It is important to maintain the natural lordosis in your lower back while sitting. You can use a specially designed lumbar support that can be attached to your chair or simply roll up a medium sized towel and place it between your lower back and the backrest of your seat.

As well, stand up regularly, put your hands on the back of your hips and bend backwards five or six times.

Many activities around the home like gardening, making the bed and vacuuming cause you to stoop forward. Make sure that you stand upright occasionally and bend backwards to relieve the strain on the back ligaments. If you are doing any lifting, make sure to keep your back straight and bend from your hips and knees.

In the event that your back starts hurting be sure to see your massage therapist right away. They’ll be able to help you out or refer you to a qualified medical professional.

Here are several extension exercises you can do to recover from low back pain, specifically acute episodes of back pain ‑ when your back “goes out.” They put the vertebrae in a position that pushes the soft centre of the disc forward so it stops pushing on the ligaments or nerves in the low back.

Before beginning, consult with your massage therapist to be sure that they are appropriate for you. Do them in the order outlined. When doing these exercises you should move until you just start to feel discomfort and then return to the starting position If you do these exercises every two hours, about six to eight times per day, you should notice a significant change in pain within one to two days.

Closely observe the location and intensity of your pain. If your pain becomes less diffuse and localizes to your back or if the pain becomes less intense, you’ll know these exercises are working. If the pain intensifies or starts to spread further from your spine, especially below the knee, stop exercising and get advice from your massage therapist.

Lie face down with your head turned to the side. If your neck is uncomfortable in this position, roll up a towel and place it under your shoulders. Take deep breaths and consciously try to relax the muscles in your lower back. Stay in this position for about five minutes.

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Remain face down. Place your elbows directly under your shoulders so that you are leaning on your forearms. Take deep breaths and allow your back to relax completely. Hold this position for about five minutes. This exercise should be done only once per session after Exercise 1.

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Place your hands under your shoulders. Straighten your arms and push your body upwards. Let your pelvis sag and rest on the floor. Relax the muscles around your low back and hips completely. It is important that you hold this extended position for one to two seconds before you lower yourself to the starting position. If you feel that the pain is decreasing or localizing, you may hold the position for a little longer.

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­Repeat this exercise ten times after having completed Exercise 1 and 2.

Q&A

What is sciatica?

The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that begins at the base of the spine and that passes through the buttocks and continues down the back of the thigh and into the lower leg. This nerve can become compressed or inflamed. If this occurs, pain begins to travel down the back of your leg.

This pain is referred to as “sciatica”. Sciatica can be caused by a bulging disc, arthritis of the spine, a tight piriformis muscle in your buttocks and even trigger points in your muscles. Depending on the cause and the severity, you could also experience numbness, tingling or weakness in the leg. If you experience any of these symptoms, see your massage therapist as soon as possible for assessment.