Self Help Massage Tools!


In between massage sessions, here a few tools you can use:

Here is a partial list of body tools – (self help devices that allow you to do body work (massage, acupressure) without the need of assistance).

TheraCane – An acupressure tool that loosens tight, painful muscular areas.  You use leverage and slight downward pull to create the desired pressure wherever you want.  This device is especially designed for the back of the neck, mid-back (between shoulder blades), upper back, sides of neck and shoulders.  It can even be used all over the body as a stretching aid.

The Stick – A non motorized massage device used by serious athletes to loosen trigger points (knotted up muscles).  The flexible core with the revolving spindles easily molds to various body contours.  This tool is great for the legs, especially the calves, and can be used effectively on all major muscle groups.

The Massage Stone This device was designed with the professional massage therapist in mind.  It is supposed to aid the hands, not replace them.  The stone may be used over clothing so it can be used often.  J   When heated, the Massage Stone drives the heat deep into the muscle tissues, relaxing the muscles for deeper massage.   When chilled, the stone can help reduce inflammation from a sports injury.

The Trigger Wheel – A 2” nylon wheel on a 4” handle for deep massage.  The Trigger Wheel works on trigger points and be used directly on skin or through light clothing.  It works the way a tire rolls back and forth on pavement. It is very effective in reaching specific sore spots, such as small areas in the neck, hands, wrists, arms, legs and feet.  It’s small enough you can carry it with you and use it throughout the day to keep pain at bay.

The Foot Massage A 2”x9” roller with raised knobs for foot massage, and rubber rings to protect the floor.  A super tool for tired feet. The studded knobs give you pinpoint access to the bottom of the foot.  This is used to stimulate nerve endings, reduce discomfort, and improve circulation. If your job is sedentary, use this tool on the job.

Breath Builder This device was originally designed for musicians to develop breath control; however it is excellent for anyone who desires to develop restorative deep breathing.  You blow into a tube and the pressure of your breath keeps a ping pong ball afloat in the cylinder.  It forces you to use your diaphragm muscles and to breathe correctly, with the goal of increasing your lung capacity.

The Back Revolution– This device is an inversion device which keeps your pelvis stabilized and decompresses discs and works wonders for store, stiff necks. Health professionals recommend using it for 70 seconds, 2 to 3 times a day.  Can help you control persistent back and neck pain.

The Pain Eraser 1 An exceptional hand-held tool that is firm enough for deep massage yet soft enough for more tender parts of your body, including your face.  Access arms, legs, hands, feet, back etc., easily with this high quality massage tool.  1-1/2” wide roller is made of 100% natural rubber with 36” fingers.  Great for travel.


Why It’s Better to Be Gumby (Flexible)

Okay, I hate to admit it, but I haven’t always been the best when it comes to stretching, but I have vowed to make it more of a habit from here on in.  As I approach the half century mark the latter part of this year, it has become abundantly clear to me that I need to be more flexible.  I have the cardio/weight lifting habit down, but am seriously lacking in the stretching department.

Since I can’t seem to make it into yoga as much as I would like to, I did some research on some worthwhile stretching books. I have two really good books already, but wanted something new.   I found an excellent one entitled:  Stretching: 30th Anniversary Edition by Bob Anderson I plan to scan copies of relative pages so that I may forward them on to family/friends/clients/colleagues!  If you are new to stretching, or want something for just about every sport or activity you could think of, this is the book for you.  Here are highlights from the book:

Stretching When to stretch?

Before you begin your day in the morning

At the workplace to release nervous tension

After sitting or standing for long periods of time

When you feel stiff

At odd times during the day, i.e, when watching TV, listening to music, reading, sitting and talking

Stretching_2 Why stretch?

 √Release muscle tension making the body feel more relaxed

√Help coordination by allowing for freer and easier movement

√Increase range of motion

√Help prevent injuries such as muscle strains/sprains.

√Make strenuous activities like running, skiing, swimming, and cycling easier because it prepares you for the activity; it’s a way of signaling the muscles that they are about to be used.

 √Helps maintain your current level of flexibility, so as you do not become stiffer and stiffer over time

 √Develop body awareness; as you stretch various parts of your body, you focus on them and get in touch with them; you get to know yourself.

 √Helps loosen the mind’s control of the body so that the body moves for “it’s own sake” rather than for competition or ego.


Back Mouse? NO…, you DON’T hire a exterminator to treat this.



Do you suffer from lumps in low back and on top of the hip?  For more information, view this video:

Treatment of the Back Mouse

To treat back mouse, iliac pain crest syndrome, or episacral lipomas, I adhere to following treatment protocol:

Do not apply deep direct pressure.  This may aggravate the herniation. Deep pressure may and should be applied to the surrounding paraspinal and hip musculature (as much as client comfort will allow), but avoid direct pressure on the lipoma. Since it is a fascial problem, I apply a fascial stretch to only the thoraco-dorsal fascia. I apply trigger point therapy to the surrounding musculature, electronic acupuncture, and a sports massage to the low back, excluding the lipoma itself.

Do not stretch or twist the low back. Many clients feel they should stretch or twist the low back. It is through an inherent fascial weakness, or faulty biomechanics that this problem evolved and when the client puts additional pressure on the fibrous capsule, the inflammation may worsen. I do recommend stretching, but only when the back pain improves above a 50 percent level. When stretching the hamstrings, I always have the client standing with the leg elevated on something of waist height.

Do not exercise. Exercise tends to only aggravate the problem until the client improves above the 50 percent pain level. Many clients aggravate the back mouse while doing some kind of exercise. They have the misconception that painful soft tissue requires exercise so they tend to overexert themselves. As they improve, some mild exercise should be added. I recommend tai chi, qigong or swimming as the best initial exercises for someone with a back mouse.

Apply ice. Since the back mouse results in inflammation, ice will tend to sedate the nerves and cool the heat. After a treatment, I tell the client to go home and apply ice for a few minutes at a time. As he/she improves, I tell him/her to start using heat as long as he/she does not fall asleep on the heating pad.  They can also use a hot water bottle for heat therapy where you don’t have to worry about falling asleep.

Avoid lying on a hard surface. Some clients have heard that to treat back pain they should lie on a hard surface.  Although, this may be true for some conditions, it is not true for the back mouse. The pressure on the capsule may aggravate the condition and cause additional inflammation.

Avoid prolonged sitting/driving. Prolonged sitting and/or prolonged driving tends to aggravate the condition by direct compression of the lipoma and deconditioning of the low back. The hamstrings tend to stiffen and the abdominal muscles weaken. This will cause the low back musculature to tighten, further putting pressure on the fascia. If the client must spend hours in traffic, a low back support pillow or rolled-up towel is helpful.



Change Your Workout to Improve Shoulder Posture

One of the most important and long lasting ways to eliminate neck and shoulder pain is to change your posture.  I am sure that you have all heard it from your CMT, but, how can you change your posture after it’s been that way for decades?  The body has already been trained to remain in a certain position and it’s game over, right?

Wrong!  Using the combination of the right fascial massage techniques, stretches and strength training can re-educate your body to develop and accept a new posture.  With postural re-education you will obtain more permanent results than simply trying to remember to pull your shoulders back.

Take Baby Steps

Please understand that the change has to be gradual.  It can be next to impossible to change postural habits overnight.  Clients often feel like they have to change their posture instantly and that they are “failing” every time that they catch themselves falling into their old posture.  I ask them to instead try to have good posture for a total of an hour a day for the first week and then gradually increase it.  This way they can understand that it is a gradual process and that they have a really good chance of succeeding.  Most will be able to do more than an hour a day and feel good about it.

Strength Training for Muscles

The other approach is to start strengthening your muscles. Posture is only partly habit.  The rest of your posture depends on muscle balance.  The chest muscles (pectoralis major and pectoralis minor) pull the shoulder blades forward, while the back muscles (rhomboids, trapezius and latissimus dorsi) pull the shoulder blades back and toward the spine.  Most people are stronger in the chest than they are in the back, which is why they slouch forward.  Re-balancing your postural muscles involves stretching out the pectoral muscles and strengthening the back muscles.

Train Your Back Muscles

By strengthening the upper back muscles, specifically the muscles that bring your shoulder blades together, you will find that your body with its balanced muscles will naturally and automatically go into the correct posture.  You won’t have to think about posture or make any real effort again.  The key exercises for strengthening these back muscles are lat pulldowns and rowing motions.

 Focus on Endurance

The problem with pulling your shoulders back is that these muscles get tired as they lack endurance.  An 8 hour work day is a long time for these muscles to be working against the powerful chest muscles.  When strengthening your postural back muscles, build endurance by lowering the weight and working up to sets of 16 or more reps.

Take it Easy on Your Chest

Most people that work out love spending time on their pecs.  Men love the strong, masculine look that a defined set of pecs give, while women like how it firms and lifts the breasts.  Remember though, although aesthetically pleasing, that strong, short, tight pec muscles are a big reason for our bad posture.  These muscles shorten with repeated slouching and hunching over our computers.  Strengthening these muscles further shorten them and worsen our posture.  You can still work on your chest in a workout, but you will need to adjust your approach:

  1. Lower the weight you are using.
  2. If you can, work the pec fly machine vs the bench press.  The pec fly works the pecs through its full range of motion including the stretched out end range.
  3. Stretch your pecs before and after every set.  Pec stretches will lengthen the pec muscles and keep them from going into spasm.

A Second Look at the Elliptical

Most people use the elliptical by focusing on powering through with their legs while their arms limply hold onto the handles and swing. This is good for cardio training and working the legs, but if you want to improve your posture and get rid of your neck pain, try using the elliptical in the following way.

  1. The key is to focus on what you your upper body is doing.  Try shifting all the work from the legs to the upper body.  It may be difficult in the beginning and you may need to alternate between focusing on the upper body and focusing on the lower body.
  2. There are 2 phases: pulling the handle back and pushing the handle forward.  To work your postural muscles, put all your effort into the pulling back phase while using the pushing forward phase to rest.
  3. When working the upper body, don’t allow the arms to do all the work.  Focus on your shoulder blade.  It should be either moving outward or pulling inward toward the centre of your back.  The more your shoulder blades are moving, the more you are working out your postural muscles.
  4. When you pull back on the handle, try to pull your shoulder blade toward your spine.  This works the rhomboid, lats, and middle and lower traps: the postural muscles that help pull your shoulders back.
  5. During the rest phase when the handle is going forward, don’t apply too much effort on the arm, but try to detract your shoulder blade and slide it out and forward for a nice stretch.
  6. This exercise is great because there is a lot of repetition which builds endurance in your postural muscles.  When those back muscles become as strong as, or stronger than the front muscles, your shoulders will automatically begin pulling your shoulders back on their own.

Good posture, naturally – YAY!!!


What You Should Know About Low Back Pain


Massage and Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common complaints heard by doctors and massage therapists today. It is highly likely that you will experience some level of back pain at some point during your life. Unfortunately, if the condition does not resolve quickly, you can end up with chronic back pain that can become difficult to treat. The good news is that regular massage treatments can help you manage your back pain and lead a healthier life.

What Causes Back Pain?

Back pain can appear anywhere along your spine, leading to the development of neck pain, mid-back pain, and lower back pain. The most common causes are muscle spasms, sprains or strains of tendons or ligaments, herniated discs, or a variety of degenerative disorders related to the spine.

It is always recommended to get a thorough medical examination if you have chronic back or neck pain to eliminate any serious structural or physiological issues with your spine. X-rays and MRIs of the relevant area can help determine the best treatments for you. If you suddenly experience any unusually symptoms with your back pain, it is best to seek medical attention immediately.

Try to avoid suppressing your back pain with over-the-counter pain killers. While these drugs may provide temporary relief of back pain, they do not help resolve your condition and may cause unwanted side-effect or develop into chemical dependency.

How Can Massage Help Back Pain?

Back pain can be a difficult condition to treat, especially if it is something that you have been suffering from for awhile. Often, the cause is related to a postural or repetitive stress on the body. Fortunately, regular massage treatments can help identify which muscles are tight and begin to dissolve this tension to provide relief.

Depending on the severity of your back pain, it may be necessary to have several massage treatments before you have sustainable relief of your back pain. Consult with your massage therapist for the proper frequency of treatment best suited to your condition.

When treating back pain, it is advisable for you to use several methods of massage together to enhance your recovery. Often, an experienced massage therapist will have training in several styles of massage allowing them to use a variety of techniques to help your back pain decrease without having to empty your bank account.

Here are some well-known styles of massage that can be beneficial for back pain:

Swedish Massage:
Swedish massage can be an excellent way to start treatment for back pain. The relaxing oil-based massage can release of many of the surface muscles and decrease the emotional stress that may be contributing to your back pain condition.

Deep Tissue Massage:
Deep tissue massage is commonly used in conjunction with Swedish massage to work the deeper muscles of the back. Hard compression and cross fiber friction can be applied to your back muscles to break up any adhesions or scar tissue that may be causing your back pain.

Trigger Point Therapy:
Trigger point therapy can be used to release muscles in your back that are in spasm. By applying steady pressure on the knots in your muscles, you can “reset” the muscle and release the spasm. This will allow fresh blood and nutrients to flow through the area and promote healing. Trigger Point therapy is excellent at correcting postural imbalances of muscles, a common cause of back pain.

Helpful Tips for Back Pain

Always seek an experienced, certified massage therapist for treatment:
There are many techniques of massage that can help, but they can also aggravate a back pain condition. The massage therapist should never work directly on any area that is acutely swollen or inflamed.

Stretching and Exercise can help rehabilitate your back:
Back pain often occurs due to muscle imbalances or weakness in your body. By regularly stretching and performing core strengthening exercises, you can decrease your back pain and prevent it from coming back. Hamstring tightness is a common cause of back pain. Yoga can be an excellent method to both stretch and strengthen you body when performed correctly.

If your back pain is not preventing you from moving, keep active:
By immobilizing yourself when you feel back pain, you maybe preventing circulation of blood through you back that can assist your body’s self-healing mechanisms.

Maintain good posture and get a good quality mattress:
The way you stand and sit places significant strain on your back. This can lead to back and neck pain if you are not aligned properly. You should try to always maintain a natural spine position. Consider a lumbar support cushion for your car seat or desk chair. Also, make sure your mattress is providing proper support when you sleep; often, a worn out mattress can lead to back pain.



Proper Posture & Ergonomics for Work & School

Don’t just sit there…. Get to work!”  used to be a familiar sound from the boss.  These days, however, most all of our jobs are sedentary.

As you can imagine, spending 8 hours a day in one position is not ideal for our bodies.  Improper sitting can subject your body to unnecessary stress that may eventually lead to pain and discomfort in the neck, shoulder or low back. Ouch!  Here are some tips to reduce discomfort:

  • Don’t remain in one position for long periods of time. Try standing up or walking around about every 20 minutes. This routine can be incorporated into your work schedule by taking phones calls, filing or reading while standing up rather than sitting. Try delivering a message to a co-worker in person rather than e-mailing or using inter-office mail.
  • Try using the hands-free option on your telephone or a headset rather than holding the phone to your ear with your shoulder as this practice over time can lead to neck and shoulder strain.
  • Listen to your body. When you feel tension or stress in certain area of your body like the neck, back and shoulders, change positions or try some gentle stretching exercises

Position your chair at a height where:

  1. The work surface is “elbow high.”
  2. Your feet are comfortably positioned flat on the floor
  3. When working, your elbows & knees are bent at 90 degree angles

If your chair is not adjustable, use a foot rest such as a phone book to attain this more ideal position

Position the height of your computer screen:

  1. Sit comfortably in your newly adjusted chair
  2. Close your eyes and relax, then, slowly reopen them.
  3. Where you first gaze as you open your eyes is the place to put the center of your screen

You can raise the height with books or a stand if needed.

Prevent Arthritis Pain!!

I subscribe to the idea of using the food we eat as medicine to keep the body healthy. I was motivated to look up foods that prevent or ease arthritis because it seems to be an issue for many.

Following is a list of 7 types of food to prevent arthritis pain:
1) Green tea
2) foods with Omega-3 fatty acids
3) olive oil
4) food rich in beta carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin
5) foods rich in Vitamin C
6) antioxidant-rich food containing the anthocyanins
7) and food containing spices of turmeric and ginger

And for every list of “do’s” there is a list of “don’ts.” Avoid the foods if you have arthritis:
1) saturated fats
2) trans fats
3) fried food in general
4) refined carbohydrates
5) and foods high in simple sugars




Relieve the Discomfort of Airplane Travel


I thought I’d share a few tips on how to cope with all the hours of sitting in a cramped little seat with the tiny fork and knife set, the tiny meal, served in the tiny dishes, with the tiny drink in the tiny cup.

When traveling, your biggest enemies are inactivity and improper posture.  The combination of them both leads to soreness/stiffness in the lower back, legs, shoulders or neck.  Here are a few helpful tips:

Use Your Pillows &  Blankets

  1. This step should help to reduce the postural strain that improper sitting places on your body.
  2. Sit with your hips back against the back of the seat to get the maximum support from the seat.
  3. Place the blanket or pillow (personally, I prefer to fold the blanket in half) between the small of your back (the curve just above your hips) and the seat back.  This will help support your lower back in its natural curve and reduce low back pain.  It is especially helpful if you are suffering from any disc related issues.
  4. Place the pillow behind your neck and keep the back of your head rested firmly against the headrest so that you can feel your neck being supported.  This helps to keep your neck in its neutral curved position and reduces neck stiffness.
  5. If you follow these steps you should feel like your upper body is fully supported in a more natural position.  You should feel less strain or discomfort in this position

Get some exercise

  1. Too much rest is not a good thing.  All that sitting without any real movement can make you achy and stiff.  The perfect solution is a bit of exercise.  Any simple exercise or movement helps increase blood flow and lubricate your joints.  Improved blood flow nourishes and oxygenates your body’s tissues and helps in waste removal, leaving you feeling healthier and more refreshed.
  2. Get up and walk around.  Use any excuse to go for a walk:  Get a glass of water; Go to the bathroom; take a tour of the cabin; see what movies everyone else is watching; or as they say in the Dead Poet’s Society, view life from a different perspective!
  3. You will probably feel pretty stiff the first time you get up.  This is a sign that you should be getting up more often!

 Choose your seat wisely

  1. Make sure you get an aisle seat.  All that getting up and walking around is never going to happen if you are stuck in the middle of a long row between 6 very close strangers.   Make it easy for yourself to get up regularly without annoying your neighbors.
  2. The aisle seat also means that you have to get up every time one of your neighbors wants out, but if you’re not big on sleeping on flights, being forced to get up is a bit of a bonus and the perfect chance to stretch out a bit.
  3. Don’t take all the aisle seats!  Leave at least one for me unless you want to see me get cranky

Use your time between flights

  1. If you have a few hour layover between flights, take the chance to walk around.  A good solid hour of walking can do wonders to reverse all the damage that sitting for 6 hours does to your body.
  2. Shop.  Not up for a brisk walk?  How about a leisurely stroll through the airport shops?

Beware Deep Vein Thrombosis

  1. Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that can form in your calf.  It may feel like a bit of pain or swelling in your calf.  This is only mildly annoying, but if left untreated can result in the clot breaking free and blocking the blood supply to your heart or brain.  If you feel soreness and swelling in a calf muscle after a flight, consult your doctor.  The typical treatment is a round of blood thinners to gently break down the clot.
  2. The lower air pressure combined with inactivity and sitting increases your chances of getting deep vein thrombosis. Seniors or women using the birth control pill are especially at risk.
  3. One solution for preventing the deep vein thrombosis from forming is exercise.  It is much more difficult for a clot to form if you are moving about.  Get up and walk around every now and then to keep the blood flowing in your legs.
  4. Try calf raises.  While you are seated you can practise going up on your tippy toes and back down again.  The constant flexion and relaxation of your calf muscles act like a pump and move the blood faster through  the calf.
  5. An Aspirin a day.  Aspirin is a blood thinner in addition to being good for a variety of other ailments.  If you doctor agrees with it and believes you are healthy enough for it, take aspirin daily for 3 to 4 days before your flight.  Remember to be sure to consult with your doctor before you try this.

Additional tips

  1. The air is pretty dry in the cabin, so keep drinking water to keep yourself hydrated.
  2. Try the in flight exercises.  Most planes have neck and shoulder exercise routines available in their in flight magazines.  Try them out.  These exercises might look a little silly, but they definitely help.


Hot or cold compresses for achy muscles/ joints?

Both hot and cold compresses can ease pain, but the trick is knowing which one to use when. Any time you have a sudden onset of discomfort (either from a new injury or a flare-up of an existing one), apply a cold pack for 20 minutes, several times a day. Icing the area decreases blood flow to the injured region, which helps prevent swelling and reduce soreness. Ice is nature’s anti-inflammatory, and with all the controversy over pain medication these days, it’s a inexpensive, safe, smart choice. If you live with chronic achy pain from back pain or arthritis, heat is better; it increases blood circulation, soothing muscles and stiff joints. Many of my clients rave about the one-use disposable heat pads and wraps available at the drugstore—you simply stick them on and go.

Hip Flexor Stretch for Groin/Back and Hip Pain


Below is a video that shows the basics of how to stretch your hip flexor muscles (psoas major and iliacus).  These muscles are involved with groin pain, low back pain, and hip pain.

Guidelines for performing the stretches:

  1. Check with a health care professional before you attempt these exercises to ensure that it is safe for you.
  2. Do the exercises slowly and gently.
  3. Failing to follow the instructions or consult with a health care professional could cause your symptoms to worsen.
  4. Tilt your pelvis back to get a better stretch.  This can be done by moving your pubic bone forward and up toward the ceiling.  This move serves to flatten the lower back.
  5. Remember to be mindful to keep your shoulders and back straight.  Do not lean forward and cheat.
  6. Hold onto something to stabilize your self.
  7. Try to breathe slowly and keep your body relaxed. Do not tense up or hold your breath as this may invite muscle spasm.
  8. You should feel a gentle stretching sensation, but you should not experience any pain during the exercises. Be especially careful of any sharp pain. If you do feel pain, decrease the range of movement by stopping before you get to the point of pain. Continue the exercise within the pain free range.
  9. If you cannot find a comfortable, pain free way to do these exercises, discontinue immediately and seek the advice of a health care professional.
  10. Do the exercises in a set of 3 for a minimum of 3 times a day for best results.
  11. Hold the stretch for a minimum of 15 seconds each time.
  12. Receiving massage or acupuncture treatments as part of your rehabilitation can improve your recovery.