Massage Therapy and stretching at home

I wrote a little ditty a bit ago about the connection between heat application to shortened muscles. Recently, I have had a lot of clients ask me about stretching and effective ways of doing such. When I ask them to demonstrate, most of the clients apply the stretch using gravity as a means of resistance. I generally don’t recommend using the body weight and gravity as a form of resistance for two main reasons.
1) Most of the time, in my opinion, body weight supplies too much weight and will do two things.
-One effect is microtearing of the muscle fibers. This occurs on a very small level, but what happens during microtearing of muscle is that the brain is alerted of the microtear, fibrotic tissue is brought to the area, soaks the muscle tissue (at the microtear) in an attempt to stabilize the area while the repair of the microtear occurs. This material is almost like biological glue. Having this occur during a time when you are wanting to stretch a muscle is generally not desired.
-Another effect is that using body weight as resistance can send an incorrect signal to the brain that the joint that the muscle is crossing may be under some overstress. The brain will react by contracting the very muscle that you are trying to stretch.

2)Another effect is that the stretch will not be focused enough and muscles other than the one that you are trying to stetch may become involved. A classic example is during a hamstring stretch during standing and touching your toes. Very often, to reach your toes, it is possible that the lower back will be recruited to help you to reach your toes. You feel the stretch of your hamstrings but at the risk of over-stressing your lower back. The opposite can occur with a stretch of your quadraceps. A person may be in a kneeling position, lean back to acheive a stretch. Often, this will cause over-curvature of your lower back again leading to an unfocused, inefficient stretch.

The stretches that I give for each client is intended to be focused, efficient and intended to have a long term effect. This leads me to my next suggestion.
There are two effects possible during a stretch. It can be an Elastic Effect, which occurs if the stretch is too short, causing the muscle to retract back to it’s original position after the stretch, and there is a plastic effect, which is when the muscle remains at the length of the stretch. What I recommend is that the stretch be at a 70% of a “maximum pull on a muscle” would be. I am a firm believer that less is more when it comes to a stretch. With this stretch, it needs to be held for 1 to 2 minutes. Deep breaths are taken to allow the body to relax, reducing any protective response that can reduce the effectiveness of a stretch.

So, to sum it all up,
-try not to use body weight when stretching, use some other method to allow you a little bit more control of the stretch, like incuding arms/legs as controllers/stabilizers
-stretch at 70% of a maximum stretch and
-hold for at least 1 – 2 minutes for a longer term effect
-application of warm, moist heat to the muscle for 10 minutes before the stretch

Any questions? Email me anytime..

Head Forward Posture and Headaches

As we have become a society that has becomed accustomed to standing in a slouched position with our backs. We also have a “head righting mechanism” which ensures that our head will always be level with the horizon. If we are slouching with our backs, there will need to be some compensation in the shoulder/neck area to bring our head into line by tilting the head up. There will be shortening of some muscles in an attempt to bring your head into a level position. Often the dominant muscles that shorten will be a set of smaller muscles at the base of your skull called the Suboccipitals. Each muscle in the neck area, when tight, will produce headaches in predictable areas. The Suboccipital muscles will produce headaches around the back of your head.
With any muscle that is shortened, there will be muscles the perform the opposite function that will become lengthened/stretched. These muscles, in a stretched position will find it difficult to support and function as it should and is in risk of going into spasm. It is possible that these muscles can produce headaches in their predictable referral pattern.
So there are the causes of headaches for different muscles either put in a shortened or lengthened position in the body’s attempt to stabilize the head for a body that is in a slouched position. My therapeutic goal is to reduce the slouch of the body through Massage Therapy, exercise, body awarenes and reduction of “slouch triggers” that occur in the person’s life (placement of computers, bad habits ect.). This is all in an attempt to reduce the need the of neck to make drastic changes to level the head. Balance is good for you.

Head Forward Posture and Headaches

As we have become a society that has becomed accustomed to standing in a slouched position with our backs. We also have a “head righting mechanism” which ensures that our head will always be level with the horizon. If we are slouching with our backs, there will need to be some compensation in the shoulder/neck area to bring our head into line by tilting the head up. There will be shortening of some muscles in an attempt to bring your head into a level position. Often the dominant muscles that shorten will be a set of smaller muscles at the base of your skull called the Suboccipitals. Each muscle in the neck area, when tight, will produce headaches in predictable areas. The Suboccipital muscles will produce headaches around the back of your head.
With any muscle that is shortened, there will be muscles the perform the opposite function that will become lengthened/stretched. These muscles, in a stretched position will find it difficult to support and function as it should and is in risk of going into spasm. It is possible that these muscles can produce headaches in their predictable referral pattern.
So there are the causes of headaches for different muscles either put in a shortened or lengthened position in the body’s attempt to stabilize the head for a body that is in a slouched position. My therapeutic goal is to reduce the slouch of the body through Massage Therapy, exercise, body awarenes and reduction of “slouch triggers” that occur in the person’s life (placement of computers, bad habits ect.). This is all in an attempt to reduce the need the of neck to make drastic changes to level the head. Balance is good for you.

Ironpeople in Penticton

My friend and I have just returned from Penticton, where were spent 5 days providing Massage Therapy for the Triathletes in the Penticton Ironman. It was much more interesting and fun than I thought it would be. Basically, people would sign up for either 1/2 hour or 1 hour sessions as a pre or post event massage. It was an interesting take on things as it is one thing to prepare an athlete for one event but these were people that were going to do 3 events as quickly as they could. I was a little bit intimidated by the whole thing. Made me want to come home and start training right away. There were about 2500 racers all packed into one area and they were all fit. I heard stories about the types of injuries that came in with muscle tears and torn tendons ect. but I didn’t see one of those while I was there. There were people hobbling around, nursing the bodies that they tortured the day before. It is always a good trip, going up into the Okanagan, as I know a lot of people up there and it is good to hook up with them. Always sad to have to go but always great to see them. I think that I will do the trip again next year for sure.