Do you experience a neck and shoulder pain during everyday activities such as working, driving, or sleeping? Do you sometimes wake up with a headache, find yourself unable to look over your shoulder, or simply feel that your neck is “out of whack?” If so, therapeutic massage can work on multiple levels to help you relax, reduce your pain, and regain movement in your neck and shoulders.
A pain in the neck
The heavy weight of the head requires a lot of support from the delicate, highly mobile structure of the neck. Because of this, your neck and shoulders are particularly susceptible to tension, strain and injury.
In some cases, neck pain begins with a traumatic incident. For instance, in a whiplash injury the jerking of the head may cause painful sprains or strains in the ligament and muscles of the neck and shoulders.
Pain can also come on gradually, for example from working day after day at a computer with tense shoulders and your head in a forward position. Other common culprits include cradling a phone with the shoulder, carrying a heavy purse or sleeping without proper neck support. Conditions such as arthritis or fibromyalgia can also cause the gradual onset of neck pain.
Pain can spread
Once tension and pain take hold, other symptoms may develop. Areas surrounding the initial problem may tighten up in a protective response. Ligament injuries and highly irritable spots called trigger points can cause pain to extend to other areas. The result can be distant symptoms such as headaches, jaw tension or tingling and pain in the arms or hands.
Massage for your pain
Massage can be one of the most effective measures you might seek for relieving neck and shoulder pain. Massage kneads away tension and painful muscle spasms, gently encouraging relaxation and increasing circulation. Improved circulation can cleanse tissues of irritating waste products that contribute to pain. Oxygen and nutrients flow to tight or injured areas, helping to reduce discomfort and promote healing. Massage can also powerfully support additional treatments for neck pain such as chiropractic, physical therapy or other medical care.
There are many different massage techniques. Some focus primarily on relaxing the muscles, while some help heal ligaments or release trigger points in the neck and shoulder area. Others relieve pain by working with fascia, the connective tissue that covers and connects the muscles. All these techniques work to decrease pain, promote flexibility and help lower the possibility of future injury.
The role of alignment
Problems with joint alignment are a common component in pain and reduced mobility in the neck. Massage relieves muscle tension that can contribute to alignment problems. It can also stretch and lengthen shortened tissues, helping to restore mobility. Massage can increase the effectiveness of other treatments such as chiropractic adjustments, which often proceed more easily and hold longer when combined with a relaxing massage.
Your individualized plan
Your massage session may begin with a review of your pain level and range of pain-free motion. Your massage therapist can then choose his or her approach, which may include areas that contribute to your pain but are not painful themselves.
If you are experiencing severe pain or extreme muscle weakness, consult your GP before receiving massage. Also let your therapist know if you feel numbness, tingling or other discomforts during a session so that she or he can adjust pressure or technique.
Jill, (your therapist) may recommend a series of massage sessions depending on the cause and severity of your pain. For the future, you may want to use massage as a preventive measure by scheduling frequent fortnightly sessions.
Stress and pain
Stressful events or unrelenting minor aggravations can often build up to physical discomfort. For example, you may have noticed that under stress your shoulders become painfully tight as they creep up toward your ears. Distracting and unpleasant, stress-related tension can also leave you more susceptible to injury, such as when you turn your head suddenly or sleep in an awkward position.
Massage calms the nervous system, allowing you to let go and breathe more deeply, which in itself helps release neck and shoulder tension. As you experience deep, restorative relaxation, you may enjoy an increased feeling of overall well-being, which can build your reserves to face ongoing stresses, both large and small.
Support for your self-care
To reduce tension or improve mobility, Jill may recommend some stretching or the use of hot or cold applications. She or he may also recommend adjusting your habits at work and home. For example, if you work at a desk, are your chair, keyboard and monitor comfortably positioned? At home, does your pillow adequately support your neck? Practicing yoga, tai chi or other movement and relaxation techniques may also help by reducing daily stress and tension.
A return to pain-free movement
Massage can be a powerful and effective therapy for reducing your neck and shoulder pain. It can improve ease of movement, help your tissues repair, increase relaxation and support other types of treatment. For both immediate pain relief and preventive care, massage can help you more fully enjoy the activities of your work, play and family life.
Deep Tissue Massage - What Does It Do?
Deep tissue therapy digs a bit deeper than your regular massage. It targets the muscles deeper within the body to work out knots and kinks that can be affecting the blood flow and therefore oxygen distribution to core muscles. A lack of proper oxygen can lead to a build up of toxins leaving a person in chronic pain.
This type of massage is often effective in helping ease the pain of tendon and ligament damage. It can also be use to help reduce stress on the skeletal system due to tightened muscles forcing bones to move from proper position. It may also help you to increase your range of motion.
This type of massage targets the deeper muscles by changing the techniques of regular massage. Your therapist may use slower and more targeted strokes during the process. They work against the natural growth of the muscle to trigger a more pronounced response. Your therapist will also use a good amount of pressure during your massage so the proper muscles are reached.
When To Consider Deep Tissue Therapy
If you have chronic pain that other therapies have not touched you may want to look into this therapy. Muscles that spasm are a sign of damage you may not know you have. If you have a physically demanding career and you find yourself feeling worse and worse with no clear reason this may be worth a try for you.
If you are experiencing headaches and overall body pain as a result of muscular pain this type of therapy may help you as well. Even sitting at a computer day after day can lead to muscle damage from the strain of holding a position for too long. Athletes may think to stretch before workouts but chances are you don't do so before and after a long day of sitting at your computer desk. Your job may be doing more damage than you realize!
What To Expect
If you've had regular massages you know that it sometimes hurts before it gets better. The same is true with deep tissue massage. Muscles that have been neglected for a time will respond with varying amounts of pain. The benefit comes after these muscles react to the therapy. The pain will melt away and you may feel better than you have in years. Be sure to speak up if the procedure is causing you unbearable pain.
Don't expect overnight relief of pain. Quite often the chronic pain and muscle damage has built up over time and it may take a bit to truly begin to heal. Though you will feel some immediate relief expect to continue the therapy for a while before you decide if it's helping you or not.
Back, neck and shoulder pain is the natural result of prolonged sitting
at work behind a computer, as is bad posture. This can cause headaches
and excessive tension in neck, shoulders, arms, forearms, wrists, back,
hips, thighs and legs. The result is increased fatigue to the muscles
and ligaments supporting the lower back and this can eventually lead to
tissue injury and spinal joint dysfunction. Avoid these problems by
posture correction, exercise and correct use of equipment.
Symptoms of back problems due to excessive computer use include:
* Back and neck muscle spasm and pain
* Back and neck soft tissue inflammation
* Back, neck and shoulder pain on movement and involvement of other muscles as a reaction
* Referred pain to buttocks and thighs or up the spine
Preventing back and neck pain while sitting is not an exact science as there are many differing opinions on the subject. However, there are some common denominators on which most chiropractors and other medical professionals agree:
Tips to Prevent Computer Related Neck and Shoulder Pain
* Do not slouch in front of the computer or lie in bed and work on a laptop.
* Do not work for hours in front of a computer without breaks.
* Do not ignore back twinges and back pain, hoping that the problem will resolve itself.
* Avoid taking pain or anti-inflammatory medication when in pain from using a computer. This will serve to mask the symptoms but can lead to serious injury or permanent nerve damage in the long term.
* Do not sit on one leg or sit with legs crossed as this causes additional strain to the back.
* Do not perch a laptop on the lap and stare down at the screen - this places extra strain on the neck, spine and arms.
Buy a chair that encourages you to use your back muscles, such as a stool chair with no back or arm rests. Lower back pain can be reduced or eliminated by strengthening the lower back muscles through active sitting exercises.
Buy an ergonomic keyboard and mouse and ensure that the height is adjusted appropriately.
Have a break every hour and do stretching exercises like neck rolls, chin tucks, cupping head in hands behind the head and extension exercises.
Visiting a Chiropractic Clinic
A chiropractor is a medical professional who treats spinal column dysfunction. Back and neck pain may be the result of the back being badly aligned and the chiropractor sets out to relieve the problem by manual manipulation, exercise, massage and the application of heat, cold and light.
Massage Therapy to Relieve Back and Neck Pain
If done correctly, massage therapy can help to relieve back pain and tension. It is best to find a therapist trained in techniques that address back pain issues and has a knowledge of muscle imbalances relating to back pain, such as sports injuries. Massage therapy should never be considered a substitute for proper medical attention where there are serious back problems.
Sources: Natural News
Benefits of Stretching
Stretching has so many benefits. Just start a program of stretching, and you’ll soon notice many of them. Some of the benefits of stretching are–
- relief from pain
- increased energy levels
- increased flexibility
- better range of motion of the joints
- greater circulation of blood to various parts of the body
- relaxation and stress relief
- enhanced muscular coordination
- improved posture
- greater sense of well-being
Increased flexibility and range of motion.
As we age, our muscles tighten and we have less range of motion in our joints. Simple activities that we once took for granted, like cutting our toenails, picking things up from the floor or zipping a dress, can all become difficult. A regular stretching program can help lengthen your muscles and make these daily activities easier and more enjoyable.
Stretching improves circulation of blood to the muscles and joints. Increased blood circulation, of course, brings nutrients to our cells and removes waste byproducts.
Chronically tense and tight muscles contribute to poor posture, which in turn can affect the functioning of our internal organs, not to mention our appearance. Stretching the muscles of the lower back, shoulders and chest can help keep the back in better alignment and improve posture.
Relaxation and stress relief.
Stretching, done properly, helps to relax tense muscles which result from stress. The feeling of relaxation brings a sense of well-being and relief from tension.
Reduce or prevent lower back pain.
Greater flexibility and range of motion in the hamstrings and muscles of the hips and pelvis help to reduce the stress on your spine that causes lower back pain.
Below you will find a set of basic stretches to combine with your massage treatments:
Each exercise should be held for 20 - 45 seconds, followed by a 30 second relaxation period.
- Each exercise should be done at least 3 times.
- Do this routine once a day.
Lean against a wall with both your back leg and your front leg slightly bent. Keep your back heel on the floor and lean progressively closer to the wall until you can feel the stretch in your calf. Repeat with other leg.
|Quadriceps (front of thigh)|
Lying on your side, reach back and grab your upper foot and pull it up toward your buttocks. Repeat with other leg while on your other side. Keep your knees together.
|Hamstrings (back of thigh)|
Sitting, bring the sole of your bent leg to the inner thigh of your straight leg. Lean forward and grasp the ankle of your straight leg with both hands. Keeping the leg straight, pull your upper body down towards your feet.
|Hip Flexors (front of hip)|
Move your hip forward, keeping the upper body straight up and the back leg stretched out. Feel the tightening in the hip and hold the position. The stretch can be accentuated by putting the back knee on the ground. Keep the front knee directly above the foot. Don't keep the front knee at such an angle that it is in front of the ankle, since this hinders the real stretch in the hip.
|Gluteals and Hip|
Sitting, bend one leg and cross it over the other leg which is either straight or lying on its side bent at 90 degrees. Push the opposite elbow against your bent knee and force buttocks to table.
|Gluteus Maximus (buttocks)|
Lying on your back with both knees bent, cross the left leg over the right. Using both hands pull your right knee toward your chest. You should feel a stretch in the buttocks on your left side. Repeat on opposite side.
|Hip Adductors (groin)|
Sitting, bend both legs and put the soles of your feet together. Grab your feet with both hands. With your elbows, push out against the insides of your knees.
|Erector Spinae (low back)|
Bring both knees to the chest by first raising one and then holding the knee with both hands. Then raise the other knee. Grasping both knees, pull them down to the chest. Relax.
|Spinal Extension (prone press-ups)|
Lie on stomach with palms by shoulders up while keeping pelvis on the surface; back and stomach sagging. Slowly lower shoulders. Repeat 10 times, sustaining the up position for several seconds during the last few repetitions.
|Supraspinatus (superior shoulder)|
Place involved hand behind your back and grasp hand with other hand. Pull diagonally down and across back. Tilt head toward the uninvolved shoulder. You should feel the stretch across the top and front of your shoulder.
|Rotator Cuff (internal rotation)|
Place a towel in both hands. Position your involved arm behind your back at waist height and your uninvolved arm up and overhead. Slowly pull the towel upward. You should feel the stretch in the front and back of your shoulder.
|Triceps and Teres Major (shoulder girdle)|
Raise one arm up and behind your head. With the opposite arm grasp your elbow and pull the arm further behind your head.
|Infraspinatus and Teres Minor (shoulder rotator cuff)|
Lying on your back or sitting, reach arm across chest toward opposite shoulder as far as possible. With opposite hand, grasp the elbow and pull the arm across even further. Externally rotating the arm during this stretch emphasizes the teres minor.
|Pectoralis Major (chest)|
Stand with your forearms against the wall in a corner of the room. Gently lean forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your shoulder and chest. This can be done one arm at a time by placing one forearm up against a wall and turning your chest away from the wall until you feel a stretch.
|Shoulder and Neck (tension relievers)|
Roll shoulders slowly backward. Do it 4 times.
What are knots in muscles?
Many of my massage clients ask "what are knots and what are the causes?"
Knots are also known as 'trigger points' they are defined as highly irritible areas of skeletal muscle that are associated with palpable nodules in over stressed bands of muscle fibers. The palpable nodules are small contraction knots and a common cause of pain in each and every one of us. When a trigger point is compressed it may bring about tenderness and referred pain.
Trigger points are caused in part by reduced blood flow to an area that reduces the available oxygen. As a result, certain muscle waste builds up. Over time, this area can become very sensitive. An area is considered ischemic if less than 5 pounds of pressure causes tenderness.
Effective treatment For Trigger Points:
Being trained in sports massage I often use a technique called NMT - (Neuromuscular Massage). This is a very effective treatment that incorporates deep pressure directly into the areas that are effected using thumbs, knuckles, elbows, or various tools.
The pressure is skillfully applied to the trigger point for several seconds and often repeated to release the knot. These short repeated compressions help break up the pain pattern by interrupting the pathological reflex circuits. As the session continues the muscle tone becomes normalized. Each session is completed with aperiod of gentle relaxing kneading massage.
The benefits of NMT:
- Improved Posture
- Restored Mobility
- Reduced Pain
- Decreased Tension
- Reduced Pressure on Nerves
- Rebalanced Biochemical Function
Some pain and soreness is to be expected for a day or so after releasing these trigger point areas.
By Jill Dennis - s http://www.harmonymindbody.co.uk
Massage Therapy has been around for thousands of years. Every culture in the world has some form of massage, or bodywork, as a healing therapy. Today, massage therapy has become somewhat of a lost therapeutic art as new technology advances medicine with laboratory-created chemical compounds and the latest electronic diagnostic and treatment devices. Though wonderful, these modernizations have also removed the innate healing effects of human-to-human contact. The simple act of touch is so powerfully soothing, that it can reduce heart rate, release endorphins, and regulate breathing. There is no replacement for the healing power of touch.
One should think of massage therapy as natural medicine. It falls into the category of alternative medicine, but loses the spotlight to other more intriguing therapies, such as acupuncture and yoga. Although it's not as glamorous, massage should be considered as the very first therapy when it comes to treating pain in the body. Here's why.
The human body contains over 650 muscles. In the average person, muscle makes up about 40% of body weight. At any one point in time, specific muscles in the body are working to keep the body functioning properly. Therefore, muscles are continuously active in sustaining life. For this reason alone, one should make sure that their muscles are in the best shape possible. Massage addresses the muscular tissue and can help muscles regain suppleness and contract efficiently.
Skeletal muscles help lymphatic fluid flow from the tissues back to the heart. When muscles contract and relax, lymph is pushed throughout the lymphatic vessels. The muscular pumping action encourages systemic movement of lymph. The fluid circulation allows for proper immune system function, cellular waste removal, dead blood cell removal, and excess fluid removal for every area in the body. Consider that the effect of tight, constricted muscles will not only impede lymphatic drainage, but residual effects would be edema, poor trauma healing, and poor immune system function.
Muscles are innervated by nerves and supported by blood vessels. Clearly, an unimpeded nerve conduction pathway will allow muscles to contract completely. But, a blocked or pinched nerve may cause a muscle to feel weak, fatigued, or possibly painful. Blood supplies fresh oxygen to muscles and removes lactic acid along with other byproducts of muscular contraction. Without good blood flow, there will be lack of strength or cramping. Sometimes tight, knotted muscles can block or impede the flow of nerve signals and blood. This blockage starves muscles and causes pain. Also, some muscles can pinch off the blood or nerve supply to other muscles, thereby creating a rippling effect downstream from a problem area.
A trip to the chiropractor often realigns the skeletal structure when a subluxation or dislocation occurs in a joint. The bones may getting adjusted, but the real offenders could be the attached muscles. Strain and imbalance in muscle structures can disturb correct joint articulation. When muscular forces have gone too far, the joints and bones will shift out of place. The muscles that tighten and injure the joint may also be painful to touch. They may reflexively trigger other nearby muscles to tighten up and protect the newly traumatized area. Frequent subluxations in a particular joint could mean there is a bigger underlying issues of muscular tightness and imbalance.
Massage should be used for regular body maintenance. At the very least, a relatively non-active person should receive a massage once a month. This regular bodywork is a good way to keep up muscle function and stave off injury. For more active people, muscles should be massaged more frequently. It is easily forgotten that the body is a machine that needs care for optimal performance. Consider that people will put more money into car maintenance than into body maintenance. It should be a planned part of the personal financial budget and not taken as a luxury when discretionary income is available. To look at some numbers, take the average cost of a massage at £35. One massage a month amounts to a yearly expense of £420 That's about £1.15 a day, thats less than the cost of hot beverage in your local cafe. Indeed there are many benefits, some of which include minimizing pain, lowering blood pressure, reducing chronic aches and pains, and improving overall health and well-being. The benefits of massage greatly outweigh its costs. Good health, vitality and longevity is invaluable
by Dylan Jawahir.
Respiratory Problems ~ How Massage Can Help
There aren't very many people who, at first glance, would think of the lungs and respiratory system as gaining any great benefit from massage therapy, but those people are far from accurate. Massage therapy, when conducted by a skilled practitioner, can create some wonderful and helpful results when it comes to your lungs and ability to breathe more efficiently.
The respiratory system's function is to allow oxygen exchange through all parts of the body. The space between the alveoli and the capillaries, the anatomy or structure of the exchange system, and the precise physiological uses of the exchanged gases vary depending on organism. In humans and other mammals, for example, the anatomical features of the respiratory system include airways, lungs, and the respiratory muscles. Molecules of oxygen and carbon dioxide are passively exchanged, by diffusion, between the gaseous external environment and the blood. This exchange process occurs in the alveolar region of the lungs.
Other animals, such as insects, have respiratory systems with very simple anatomical features, and in amphibians even the skin plays a vital role in gas exchange. Plants also have respiratory systems but the directionality of gas exchange can be opposite to that in animals. The respiratory system in plants also includes anatomical features such as holes on the undersides of leaves known as stomata.
To have a great benefit on the respiratory system, the muscles around your torso, including the diaphragm (your main respiratory muscle) and intercostals muscles (between the ribs) must be massaged. Most people don't immediately think about these muscles when considering whether or not they want to have a massage. You need to have an established and trusting relationship with your massage therapist before allowing him or her to work in this area of your body, due to sensitivity and emotional issues that can arise when working near the chest. Females, especially, need to be cautious, due to the proximity of the breast tissue. A good therapist, however, knows how to use proper draping (covering) techniques to avoid exposure and will discuss any sensitive issues or concerns with you prior to the massage.
Massage therapy impacts the respiratory system by increasing your pulmonary functions. The loosening of the often tight respiratory muscles allows them to move more freely which will in turn aid your breathing by allowing the lungs to expand and contract without inhibition. Your ability to inhale and exhale will be enhanced, allowing oxygen an easier path into your body and carbon dioxide and easier path out.
Relaxed respiratory muscles contribute to a lower respiratory rate, or number of breaths you take per minute. If your muscles aren't constricted, your lung capacity will increase. You'll find yourself taking longer and deeper breaths instead of short and shallow breaths. For the same time, those who generally feel short of breath, also known as dyspnea, should not feel short of breath as much or as often.
Another great benefit on the respiratory system is the decrease in asthma attacks experience by those who have had regular massage therapy. This relates back to the relaxation of the muscles and the improved pulmonary function. We've given the lungs a chance to relax and work more efficiently and individuals who have regular massage treatments find that they are less dependent on their inhalers or asthma medications.
Massage therapy also helps to reduce tension around the larynx by reducing the tension in the muscles of the neck and throat region. Singers and public speakers take note - you use more muscles when you speak and sing thank you think - taking care of these muscles might just help you increase the longevity of your career!
Certain massage techniques can and will help increase fluid discharge from the lungs by loosening phlegm, especially when certain tapping or tapotement techniques are done on the back. Unfortunately, if you have a respiratory ailment that causes fluid buildup in the lungs, you shouldn't approach this as a therapy without the aid of a trained respiratory therapist. A good massage therapist will not start banging on your back with the intention of loosening phlegm without a strong knowledge base concerning your medical history. Otherwise, massage may be an excellent addition to the therapies you are using to control your respiratory illness.
With that said, I'll again remind you that you should always check with your doctor and/or massage therapist to determine if massage is right for you. Always disclose your full medical history to your massage therapist. Until next time, be safe and relaxed!