5 Ways Massage is Like Exercise

 

I know what you’re thinking: Massage is NOTHING like exercise! Exercise makes you sweat, gets your heart rate up, and it’s something a lot of people don’t enjoy doing–at least not nearly as much as getting a massage. And while the obvious differences are true, the two have more in common than you might think.

 

  1. Frequency and Consistency: If you go to the gym once or twice a year, that’s awesome! That’s better than not going at all! However, if you complain about not meeting your fitness goals and you only exercise once or twice a year, it’s kind of a no-brainer as to how you aren’t reaching those goals. Massage is the same way. If you have back pain, headaches, limited range of motion, and the like, and you only see us “when it’s really bad,” don’t expect us to be able to fix you in one go. The more frequent your bodywork is, the more results you are going to see from it. The American Massage Therapy Association said, “Massage has its greatest benefits over time. The therapeutic effects of massage are cumulative, so the more often you get a massage, the better you will feel and the more quickly your body will respond.” So if you came in once because you have back pain and you didn’t get the results you were looking for, you need to come back again! Talk to one of our Licensed Massage Therapists to know how often you should be coming and what your goals are.
  2. Lactic Acid: When you workout, your body will releaselactic acid, a naturally occurring substance that your body creates when it has a low oxygen level and breaks down carbohydrates for energy. A knot is built up lactic acid, and a massage will squeeze that build up out of those muscle fibers. This is why you can become sore after a massage, but usually feels more like a workout kind of sore. You get these buildups from overuse or repetitive motions and eventually, those buildups prevent your muscles from contracting the way they should.
  3. Drink Water! With knowing what lactic acid is and how it can affect your body during a massage, it would be ludicrous to think that you could do a strenuous workout and not drink water. So why would you do that after a massage?!? While there have been studies showing that increasing your water intake after a massage doesn’t specifically affect your body as much as we used to think it does, it’s always a good idea to drink more water. It takes a LOT of water to overdose (which is actually a thing–check it out). You’ve been laying there for an hour; it’s good to replenish your water and hydrate your cells.
  4. Metabolism: Much like exercise, massage can boost your metabolism. Please note: Getting frequent massage, while can and does boost your metabolism, is not a viable option for weight loss. You must do so much more than just massage for weight loss. And much like exercise, you need more than just exercise for weight loss. “There is a cumulative improvement in metabolic function. Massage has no known effect on blood pH, oxygen consumption, pulse rate or blood pressure except indirectly as a result of relaxation.” This means that there is an overall benefit, mainly due to the fact that you are actually taking time for yourself and allowing yourself to relax, which initiates more of the digesting and metabolic functions within the body. With our society being so go-go-go, we need some time for ourselves to allow our metabolism to function as best it can and for our parasympathetic nervous system to kick in and decrease our cortisol levels (stress hormone) and increase and promote a more restful state.
  5. Listen to your “trainer”! If you’re paying a lot of money for your training sessions with a personal trainer, but you don’t listen to anything they actually say (“Stop drinking soda.” “Eat more leafy greens.” “Make sure you’re exercising 3 times a week.” etc.) then you aren’t going to be making the gains you want. Same with massage. If your Massage Therapist tells you to drink more water, or stretch certain muscles, or something like that, then listen to them! If they want to see you once a week until you’ve made some headway in your back pain, do it! When you work with a Licensed Massage Therapist (which if you see us at Under Pressure Therapeutics, you do) you are working with someone who has the knowledge, skill set, and experience to help you with your pain. Not only are we trained to know how to help the muscles, we actually feel what’s going on in your muscle systems. We can tell if you are wearing your right shoulder high and what muscles are tight and possibly causing that. We analyze your posture. If your Massage Therapist tells you to stretch a certain muscle, do it! It will help.
Sure, massage and exercise are different, but both play a huge role in your overall health and wellness. Both can help with limited range of motion and postural deviations, and both require commitment to see results.

Disc – O – Tech

It’s been a theme recently that I’ve been working with a lot of people with disc issues. Serious disc issues. When you have a disc issue, it can cause pain, stiffness, even numbness and tingling. If you’ve experienced disc dysfunction, you know how agonizing and painful and relentless it really is.

 

A disc is the spongy donut, essentially, found between each vertebra. This provides not only a cushion between each spinal bone, but also a larger opening for your spinal cord nerves to come out and provide that neurological stimulation for your body. These discs are important and necessary. They also receive almost no blood. Blood is what keeps everything new, fresh, and healthy. Your discs pump water with the movements you do with your spine, so movement is insanely important for disc health.

 

Picture found on wikipedia

The construction of the vertebra-disc-vertebra has almost no horizontal movement for fear of the disc slipping. Two of the most common types of disc slippage are a bulge and a herniation. Each one of these cause tremendous amounts of pain, but not all require surgery.

Randy A. Shelerud, MD stated on WebMD:

“A bulging disk extends outside the space it should normally occupy. The bulge typically affects a large portion of the disk, so it may look a little like a hamburger that’s too big for its bun. The part of the disk that’s bulging is typically the tough outer layer of cartilage. Bulging usually is considered part of the normal aging process of the disk.

 

“A herniated disk, on the other hand, results when a crack in the tough outer layer of cartilage allows some of the softer inner cartilage to protrude out of the disk. Herniated disks are also called ruptured disks or slipped disks.”

 

While surgery for a bulging disc is rare, surgery for a herniation still isn’t 100%. Each of these have the ability to heal with regularalternative therapies, such as massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, and physical therapy. So many discs have the power to heal without surgery if just given the right opportunity. It takes consistency and a team of well trained professionals who are all working for the same goal.

 

Surgery is not the only answer for many herniations, but there is a time and place for it. Oftentimes, after a back surgery for a disc issue, many patients have to do the same physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic care anyway to gain the healing it needs. So unless your doctor really advises you otherwise, try alternative therapies first. I am not saying that if your doctor has suggested surgery to ignore it. Please do not read this and disregard what your doctor has said. It is important to listen to your doctor. Most importantly, have patience. It takes time to heal.

Neck Pain: What’s really happening?

Neck pain is quite complicated and extremely obnoxious when it’s happening to you. As a Massage Therapist, it’s been my experience that when you are unable to turn your head to a specific side and that side hurts, most of the tension is actually originating from the opposite side, but not always. The neck likes to play tricks on you and will give you headaches on one side from tension on the opposite. Symptoms of neck pain can include: tight neck muscles, headaches, migraines, fatigue, muscle tenderness, allergy flare up, stress and anxiety, or irregular sleep habits or non-restful sleep, among other, less common and somewhat eccentric symptoms.

When talking about the neck, it’s necessary to talk about the full spine. The spine, even though is many individual bones and muscles, works as a unit. This unit likes to keep everything balanced, based on your ears–your inner ears are what tells your brain if your head is on straight. This causes a zig-zag pattern to emerge from tension and dysfunction. If your left hip is off, then it zig-zags all of the way up to your neck to keep your head balanced. If you are in a car accident and get whiplash and have more tension at the base of your skull on the right side, your spine will do zig-zags all of the way down your spine to try and correct the imbalance.

 

This is a great compensation technique our bodies do without us being aware of it happening. Unfortunately, this causes all sorts of pain and dysfunction with our necks.

 

With talking about the full spine, I could focus on any part of it, but the neck is one of the most important areas of the spine. If your neck isn’t functioning correctly, it will trickle down your arms, spine, legs, and spread to dysfunction in your organs. It’s not good!

 

The neck has so many muscles, it’s difficult to say that this one or one group of muscles causes this amount or type of pain. It’s a learning curve. No massage therapist will know for sure what’s causing your neck pain until they have worked on you enough to weed out certain possibilities. The neck, alone, has over 24 muscles! If you want to include muscles that attach the neck more to the skull or to the body, that number increases.

 

Neck pain does not always come from trauma or an injury. With computers, smart phones, driving, and more, it’s easy for us to pull our heads into a forward-head posture. Even though we know it’s bad for our necks, we still try and hold our skinny smart phones between our ear and shoulders. We carry bags larger than five pounds and load them down until the straps break. These and many other repetitive motions can and will cause neck pain and dysfunction.

 

If you are having neck pain, headaches, or tingling in your arms, getting bodywork to help decrease and manage that can be extremely helpful and can prevent worse symptoms. The Mayo Clinic is a fan of massage for neck pain. Especially if you have been in a car accident or have had whiplash, recieving massage for your neck, specifically, can really help your every day functionality.

 

The neck is pivotal for optimum body functionality. A client a few years ago came in complaining of neck pain and limited range of motion. She could neither turn her head nor look up and down. She had a leg that was an inch and a half shorter than the other. I spent an hour on just her neck, she left my office with about 20% range of motion restored, and the next day–her hips evened out! She no longer had a leg that was an inch and a half shorter! We traced it back to a car accident she had been in that left her lower back really messed up and sever whiplash, and by working on relieving the neck tension, her spine allowed other tensions to release. How amazing is that?

Stress Kills; We Can Help

Many people might think that massage is too expensive or just a luxury, not a necessity. Some might say, “Only people with butlers and maids who send their clothes off to be dry cleaned and buttons sewn back on can afford it. Besides, it’s only good to relax, and I don’t have an hour to sit with cucumbers on my eyes!” Well, stress kills, and we can help.

With the every-day stresses that accompany our daily lives, stress can be a really silent, slow killer. The only way you can escape it is if you are a care-free three-year-old only playing and eating what you want! We, as a society, tend to over-stretch our glutes and back muscles while shortening our pecs and hamstrings, just to be very general. We have forward head posture, which causes Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which can cause headaches and does cause numbness in our hands. We spend hours at computers working and Facebooking and watching TV or YouTube in awful positions that end up causing us pain or muscle strain. We spend loads of time texting and on our phone and while we are talking about phones, we still try to hold our skinny smart phones between our ear and shoulder while we are talking on it. We get in car accidents, slip on ice, fall down stairs, stub our toes and run into things. And that’s not even getting into the psychological stresses: deadlines, weddings, divorces, kids, no kids, kids sports and activities, church or other volunteer opportunities, pets, significant others, roommates, parents, siblings, extended family, in-laws, job changes, job promotions, new managers, new co-workers, losing jobs, sleep deprivation, sickness, technology not working, phone contracts, internet installation, turning 50, pluming issues, car work, and the list goes on.

 

Stress of any kind raises cortisol levels, the stress hormone. Cortisol is good. It’s that feeling you get that lights a fire under you so you do what you need to do. It regulates your metabolism and blood sugar levels; it’s anti inflammatory and helps with memory storage in your brain; it regulates your blood pressure. So you can’t just remove it from your body and call it good. If you were to do that, you would have all sorts of other bad symptoms. Too much cortisol can lead to high blood pressure, osteoporosis, weight gain, mood swings, and muscle weakness.

 

You can regulate its production by one of many de-stressing ways:

  • Go for a walk
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Learn how to say no (especially when your plate is full)
  • Voice your feelings, in a healthy, respectful way
  • Do yoga
  • Accept things you cannot change
  • Write in a journal
  • Listen to music
  • Be less busy
and, of course….
  • Get a massage
Massage can lower cortisol levels. An old CNN article pointed out many benefits of massage, so this is not some new study you’ve never had access to. Massage works in helping with stress–physical, emotional, psychological, and sometimes even spiritual.
We also have some great essential oils that you can take with you everywhere you go. Check out our post about Stress Away.

Fibromyalgia

The Mayo Clinic states, “Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.”

 

Fibromyalgia is a life long struggle of trying to find a balance that helps you manage the pain. Some people with fibromyalgia live practically symptom free with the right combination and only have a few flare ups a year. Massage therapy is one of the most highly recommended treatments for fibromyalgia management. It does this be decreasing stress as well as lowering heart rate and increasing relaxation. Many people with fibro also experience muscle spasms, and massage therapy can definitely decrease the frequency, intensity, and duration of muscle spasms. The Mayo Clinic also talks about a few other alternative therapies to help manage fibro.

 

Sometimes, I will say, that fibromyalgia likes to play dirty tricks on you. Sometimes coming in for a massage really helps calm everything down, and other times, it’s a painful experience. That being said, not receiving a massage at all can be detrimental to your overall health.

Keep Your Head On Straight

Posture is often defined as being the relaxed state of your spine. So if there is one form of “good” posture, why are there so many people with “bad” posture? Because personal posture is not predicated upon the textbook definition of posture, but what is comfortable to you. So why is it comfortable for you to have bad posture? Because through years of repetitive motions, prolonged exposure to a certain posture, and the way we hold ourselves within our society, muscles and ligaments stretch or shorten to make it easier to hold that bad posture.
This does not dismiss the fact that you, likely, have bad posture. This does not make it okay to continue to have bad posture. By continuing to have bad posture, you open yourself up to a whirlwind of problems. Our spines were meant to be in a certain order with certain curves in certain directions. Our joints are constructed in a certain manner to allow us to function as best we can. Most of what we do makes us crouch forward into this fetal position (ie. driving, texting, playing video games, typing on the computer, etc.) which over stretches most of our back muscles and tightens and shortens most of our front muscles. This makes that posture best designed for optimum function to lack, which causes degeneration within our bodies.
poor-posture-sequence1
Here is a simple rule: Keep your head on straight, and the rest will follow. It’s difficult to have your head on top of your shoulders with your ears in line with your shoulders but have bad posture through the rest of your spine. Keep your head on straight! Relax your shoulders–don’t wear them as earrings. It’s not fashionable. Remind yourself to fix your posture, and you will begin to reteach your body how to hold itself. If you’re sitting, sit up straight. If it hurts after 5 minutes, keep doing it. Remind yourself to do it as much as you can. The main reason it hurts is because you’re not used to it. By continuing to sit and stand in better posture, you will strengthen the muscles that have been weakened by years of malpractice.

Ice, Ice, Baby

Most people don’t like ice. It’s uncomfortable. It’s cold. It’s wet. After a while, it makes you ache. We try and protect ourselves from ice and cold as much as we can. So why, oh why, would you let your Massage Therapist put ice on you for part of your massage!?!?
Especially with chronic issues, cryotherapy (Ice massage) can be better for you than heat. Heat will increase inflammation, if any is present, which would exacerbate the pain-causing issue.
The way it works: your therapist takes some ice and rubs it on the area he/she wishes to massage. There are stages of ice that you have to bear through in order to get the most benefits from it: cold, burn, ache, hurt, and then finally to the numb stage! Getting your body to this point is where you will have the most beneficial factors for cryotherapy. It usually takes around 7 minutes with the ice cube (usually 20 if you are icing yourself with an ice pack or a bag of peas) for the area to get numb.
Then the fun begins! The therapist can then dig in on the area and break up scar tissue, tight fascia, or knots that won’t go away, while you are getting the benefit of icing the area, which calms everything down and allows the body to really take a look to see what’s going on with your shoulder, or your lower back, or whatever your issue is.
Ice is not fun to get, but I promise you that it will help you get greater relief from certain aches, pains, and limited range of motion.

Hurts So Good

“If this whole massage thing doesn’t work out for you, you could get a job with the CIA torturing people.”
“You have elbows of a sadistic angel!”
“This is rough, man! And I’m paying for this pain!!”
These are only a few of the things I hear from clients when I’m causing a bit of pain. I know that many of you might dread coming to see me or you might not tell me things that hurt for fear of grinning and bearing the imminent pain that I would be causing.
I’m here to tell you that pain is a good thing!! Now, I want to make something clear: I want to cause pain, but I do not want to hurt! There is a difference! Pain tells your body that there’s something not enjoyable going on and you should be aware of it. Hurt tells your body that something isbreaking down or degenerating in your body!
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Pain is important! It tells us that the burner is hot. It reminds us that we can’t lift a car with one arm. It tells us when something isn’t functioning right! So why pain when receiving a massage? Because your Massage Therapist is preventing it from feeling that way all of the time!!
The human body has only 13% of nerves that feel pain! This is one reason why I think that it “hurts so good” when I’m pushing on you. The pain sends receptors to your brain telling it that something isn’t quite right. Your brain, then, sends in more blood to take care of the problem! When you have a knot or a trigger point, it is preventing fluid, effective blood flow to that area of the body, making activities or tasks difficult. The blood helps eat away this build up and allows for an easier flow of blood.
But here’s a key that you all need to know: If it is too painful for you, you HAVE to let us know! It’s okay to need less pressure or take a break. It’s okay if an area is too tender for that amount of pressure!
That’s it in a nutshell! So next time you’re thinking that a massage is the most painful experience in the world, just remember that it’s not stepping on a Lego kind of pain.

Don’t Be a Pain in the Butt!!

I am always surprised when a client does not want their glutes massaged. I understand that it may be personal and you might be uncomfortable with the idea, but maybe I can explain why it’s so important for me to work your glutes!

Your spine works as a unit, meaning from the base of your skull down to your tailbone is so interconnected that you cannot isolate your pain to only one section of your spine! If you have neck problems, it radiates down to your mid and lower back, which radiates into your glutes. If you have leg pain (knee, ankle, etc.), then your glutes will have issues I can work, since your glutes are one of the main muscles that moves your legs.

 

Gluteus maximusEven if you sit on your glutes all day and don’t think you work them very much, NOT TRUE!! If you sit on them too much, you are over-stretching them! This means that when you do use them, they have to work HARDER just to do the same motions! Your glutes help you stand up, walk, sit down, run, and almost every other major motion the average person does in a day.

 

If that doesn’t convince you, if I don’t work your glutes, that’s 20 muscles you are not letting me work! You have 3 glute (specific) muscles, and 7 muscles that rotate your leg outward located directly under those glutes. Your gluteus maximus is the largest (or should be) muscle in your body. If you’re having pain and knots in your tiny neck muscles, why do you think you wouldn’t have knots in the largest muscle in your body?

 

Ultimately, it’s your massage. If you’re uncomfortable, then you’re uncomfortable. But if you are having lower back pain, leg pain, or some kind of pain that just hasn’t gone away, let me massage your glutes!

 

Be well.
Marissa Orchard, LMT
Written June 12, 2013

Insurance Can Cover Care

That’s right! Under Pressure Therapeutics is officially billing insurance! However, it is only currently for car accidents and workman’s compensation cases. We will slowly be introducing more insurance coverage throughout the year.
Everyone knows someone (or has been that someone) who has been in a car accident. If you are among the fortunate, you walk away from it. However, many don’t realize the long-term issues that come from even an impact as little as 10 mph! It only takes that much to cause soft tissue damage. Doctors at the emergency room will check for breaks, bleeding, etc, which is great; but they don’t pay much attention to your muscles and what they went through for that “little” fender bender. If you do damage at 10 mph, imagine the damage your muscles, tendons, and ligaments go through at higher speeds.
Good news: In the state of Colorado, it is required to have MedPay on your car insurance. Why is this good news? Because whether or not it is your fault in an accident, there is a minimum of $5,000 of coverage just for your physical care. This means that if you (or someone you know) were in a car accident, GET INTO MY OFFICE!! We can help you take care of your whiplash so it doesn’t snowball into you not being able to turn your head 15 years down the road! We can prevent your lower back from seizing up and causing pain down your legs in 5 years! We can get you healthy so you don’t have to know what it’s like to wake up with severe pain! Whiplash, especially, is a musculoskeletal condition that lies dormant and waits to rear its ugly head!
If you have any more questions, please do not hesitate to ask! I am happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have about insurance.
Be well.
Marissa Orchard, LMT
Written May 14, 2013