A Moment to Yourself…..

 

Where do you get away from it all to meditate, dream, or decompress??

In the Western culture, we live in a fast paced, frenetic society.  It seems that more and more people are getting away from connecting to one another in person and having any meaningful conversation.  Connections and updates about our lives are now on Facebook or Twitter.  How long/often are you on these social networking sites?  Have you ever observed a group of people in the airport, in the grocery line, or anywhere outdoors glued to their Smartphones?  Is it any wonder so many of us feel disconnected?  It seems as though technology is becoming the death of our society. To succeed in the business world these days, you must be tied into social networking.  I prefer to network in person, but to keep up with the times, have succumbed to engaging in social networking.  It’s no wonder I prefer the European mindset of a much slower paced lifestyle with a siesta in the late afternoon.

I am on Facebook, primarily to promote my business.  I generally check in 1-2x a day during the weekday, but for never more than 5-10 minutes. Many people are Facebook stalkers, never commenting or adding anything to their page, just following what others are posting.

I make it a point to regularly connect with my good friends IN PERSON, or at least over the phone.  It is so nice to be able to share time together, for a meal, drinks or, better yet, out in nature.  Time can swiftly get away from you; all of a sudden you realize you haven’t connected with friends in six months, a year!

My favorite way to decompress is travel, whether it is local or abroad.  If I may recommend a few places that I get away regularly to relax that don’t require airplane travel:

Bodega Bay Lodge, Bodega Bay, CA: http://www.bodegabaylodge.com/specials_and_packages

Osmosis Day Spa & Sanctuary, Freestone, CA –  http://www.osmosis.com/

Stafford Retreat Cottage, Scott’s Valley, CA  – http://www.vrbo.com/418853

 

 

 

Major Causes of Neck Pain

According to several studies, about 67 percent of adults experience severe neck and shoulder pain in their lifetime. As a CMT, I would have guessed the actual number is much higher than this. As it turns out, neck pain is one of the primary reasons people visit their physician. Unfortunately, many people don’t know what causes this pain and as a result they do not know how to prevent and relieve it. Below is a summary of a few of the major causes of neck and shoulder pain.

Stress

Stress causes your muscles to tense up and contract, which leaves them feeling stiff and sore, which makes emotional stress the leading culprit of neck and shoulder pain. We often remember the old saying, “he’s carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders”, oddly enough that is the body’s physiological response to stress. It is important to take a significant amount of time of each day to relax, meditate or do something enjoyable for you. Take a warm bath, read a good book, listen to some music or even watch your favorite television show.

Muscle Strain

Daily heavy lifting and strenuous exercise can cause over-stretched and over-contracted muscles in the neck and shoulders. To prevent pain in this area when working out, it’s important to know your limits.  This also applies to moving and lifting heavy items either on your own time, or at work.

Sleeping

Sleeping in a bad position can cause you to wake up with a crick in the neck. Assuming most of us get between 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, this leaves certain muscles contracted for that entire period. Think about how sore other muscles in your body feel when you use them for hours at a time. That is what causes the severe pain and immobility in the neck the morning after a night sleeping on your stomach with your head turned to one side.

Sitting at a Desk

People who spend a majority of their work day in front of a computer often have neck and shoulder pain because computer monitors are rarely aligned with the person’s eyes. This means that the person must tilt their head up or down to see the screen which puts an enormous amount of stress on the neck. Always adjust your monitor so the center of it is level with your eyes when working on a computer.

Trigger points

Trigger points cause pain more often than any other condition, and are drastically under-diagnosed due to the lack of information about them. Trigger points are hypersensitive areas in muscle that suffer from decreased circulation, increased contraction and spasm. Poor circulation causes a buildup of toxins and increased nerve sensitivity that manifests in the body as a low ache or a sharp pain.  When someone has an active trigger point in a muscle it can cause pain in that muscle or often it can refer pain to another area in the body.

The most common referred pain is in the form of headaches, shoulder and neck pain caused from trigger points in the back of the neck, shoulder and upper back. Such trigger points can remain dormant for very long periods of time but will eventually cause spasm or pain.  Many headaches (including migraines) are caused from these trigger points referring sensation into certain areas of the head.  While most headache symptoms usually are treated with painkillers, though the underlying cause is almost never addressed.

Though the causes of neck and shoulder pain are diverse, there is one common cure for all of them, and it does not involve medicine.  GET A MASSAGE! Almost all of the causes of neck and shoulder pain (even headaches) are muscular.  So put down the anti-inflammatory meds and call your local massage therapist ASAP!!! Reduce stress, lengthen and stretch those muscles, improve your circulation, and get rid of those trigger points.  It may take scheduling a few sessions to get you feeling back to normal, but you will feel the difference immediately.

 

Serenity N-O-W!!!!

We all too familiar with this scenario…

‘You wake up each morning and are in a big rush to get to work on time. It seems like traffic is always bumper to bumper! By the time you get to work, you are met with deadlines, office politics, and 100 things on your to do list and 50 things to tackle in your in basket. Five o’clock comes and you are rushing home…traffic again! By the time you make it home, you are already late for dinner with your neighbors. The babysitter just called, and can’t make it tonight.’

Whew! I am stressed for you just thinking about it. Balancing your work and home life can be extremely stressful. It seems like there is never enough time in the day for relaxation, or taking care of your self.  Relaxation is a necessary part of health and wellness for your body and mind. There are a few things you can do throughout your day to help relieve stress and find time for serenity NOW.

One of my favorite Seinfeld episodes:

http://youtu.be/PlZvY_LXJco
1. Just Breathe: Take a big deep breath…then let it go. You will be amazed at how quickly you will feel better by simply just doing that. The great thing about this particular breathing technique is that you can do it anywhere. Sitting or standing, slowly and consciously focus on your inhalation. Breathing through your nose, inhale to the count of five. Hold the breath for three, and then exhale thru your mouth counting to eight as you imagine the stress leaving your body. Repeat this 3-5 times, and several times throughout the day. Stress can cause people to unknowingly breathe more rapidly, or worse, forget to breathe at all!  Yoga or meditation classes both use deep breathing to promote relaxation and overall health. Find a local yoga studio in your area, and sign up for a class.  If you’re in Sacramento, I would highly recommend, http://www.padmecenter.com/


2. Be Active: Hit the gym or the yoga studio! Although you may feel more like lying around the house, perched in front of the TV, exercise is great pick-me-up. Exercise releases endorphins that help your body battle anxiety. This alone can elevate your mood. In addition to the chemical benefits, exercise is great for taking your stress out in a constructive way. Kickboxing for example, is a great therapeutic way to relieve stress. Just visualize your stressor (boss, evil co-worker, nagging ex) as the recipient.


3. Laugh: Laughter is the best medicine, and it’s contagious! Pop in a funny DVD, go see a comedy show, or read a funny book, or better yet, hang out with people who make you laugh.  You will forget about your anxieties just as quick as they came about.   I am fortunate enough to have many people in my life who are funny and see the lighter side of any situation.


4. Reach out and touch someone: Have you hugged anyone today or this week? Whether it is from a close friend, son, daughter, or significant other, a simple touch of endearment is an incredible mood enhancer. Having physical contact has been found to raise levels of Oxytocin also described as the “love hormone” while lowering levels of Cortisol, “the stress hormone” helping us relax and feel good.  I have always been a hugger.  I grew up in a family who wasn’t very affectionate so I vowed to be the complete opposite.

5. Smell the Roses: Have you ever noticed that a certain scent just makes you feel better? Is it the smell of a certain flower, scent of a loved one’s cologne or even something baking in the oven? For me, the scent that I prefer is vanilla.  Figure out the scent that is most pleasing to you, and use it throughout your home. In the practice of Aromatherapy, certain scents influence your mood and can even change your physiology. Lavender is the go to for relaxation, but you can also use chamomile, ylang ylang or rose oil in a warm bath or just defuse the scents in the air.

6. Plug in to iTunes/Pandora, etc.: Plug in your ear buds, and tune into to your favorite play list! Studies have shown a strong link between music and lowered stress levels in everyday life. Singing helps too. If you need to relax plug in Enya or any massage music track.  For example, here is a listing of playlists I use for massage: http://www.vssageblog.com/?p=359 You don’t have to limit yourself to just “relaxing” music though. Listen to something that lifts your spirits.

7. Treat Yourself: My personal favorite! This, you may not be able to do every day, but on occasion, you deserve a pampering. Treat yourself to a massage, facial or rejuvenating treatment of your choice. Get the benefits of all the aforementioned tips (aroma, music, touch) in one! If its currently not in the budget, you can do a bit of ‘at home’ pampering by soaking in a warm bath, lighting some candles and slip in a Sade or other relaxing CD to seal the deal.

8. Be Present: Sometimes this can be difficult in our modern society, (Am I the only one getting sick and tired of hearing about the fiscal cliff???!!), but it is one of the most important things you can do to reduce stress and find serenity. The present is what is happening right now, at this very moment. Don’t be consumed with what happened yesterday, or what could happen tomorrow. This is an ancient Zen teaching that helps open your awareness to the moment. This might take time to master, but take baby steps. Try eating a piece of dark chocolate. Instead of inhaling the chocolate and thinking after it is gone how good it was, eat it slowly, taking tiny bites. With each bite focus on the taste, the aroma. Experience how wonderful it is…right now. Take this exercise and relate it to other things in your life. You will find that this helps you have stronger relationships, get more done, and increase your fulfillment from life. All of this can be achieved simply by enjoying the moment.
9. Get Outside: Connect with Mother Nature by taking a short walk thru the woods, sit by a body of water, just get some fresh air and sunshine. Our early ancestors spent most of their lives outdoors, but today we are lucky to get 30 minutes a day. Our body’s still physically and mentally need the benefits of the outdoors, especially the sun. So get out there, everyday if you can, and soak it all up. Breathe in the fresh air, soak up some rays, and appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds you.  I walk my dog every day, and in the warmer months (above 50 degrees), I ride by bike along the American River bike trail 5x a week for 20-30 miles.

Headaches to Watch Out For….

I was at the gym this morning when all of a sudden I had a pounding headache, one like I had never had before.  For someone that rarely has headaches, especially of this type, was odd.  I tried to continue my workout, but the pounding would not subside.   I went home, popped and aspirin and slept it off.  Thankfully, when I awoke 2 hours later, the headache and pounding were gone.

Later that same day, I asked one of my clients if he had ever had a headache like this or had he heard of this happening to anyone.   He told me about an article he read previously in the New York Times about someone who experienced this and from the advice of his father who was a Doctor, called 911 and told them, “I have a pounding headache, the worst I have ever had and I am not someone who gets headaches.”   He found out that he had a brain aneurysm and that was one of the signs.  He attributed his Father with saving his life for giving him this information.  I thought this would be valuable information to pass along to others.  I know I am so thankful that I found out about this because I had no idea.  Thank you Paulie!!!

For more information about brain aneurysms:

http://www.webmd.com/brain/tc/brain-aneurysm-topic-overview

 

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.

Why do Spas/Massage Envy, etc., Offer Only 50/80 minute Sessions?

 

For a long time in the U.S. and much of Europe and Asia, 30-45 minutes was considered standard for massage. As we’ve realized over the years how much can be achieved with therapeutic massage, typical sessions extended to 60 or even 90 minutes or more. Most massage therapists prefer to take breaks of at least 15 minutes in between every 1 to 3 massages.  I take 30 – 60 min breaks between each client and limit the number of massages I do each day so I am not overtaxed and you receive a quality massage.

In recent years, many businesses (mostly spas) have discovered that if they cut the session by 10 minutes, they can book the therapists for more sessions and make more money. The problem with this “professional hour” of 50 minutes is that you are often paying for the price of an hour, and getting a very weary massage therapist for less than an hour.  When I first began doing massage, I worked in a spa environment for 1.5 years.  I knew early on that I did not want to continue to work in a spa.   I could never do a 50 minute session and would always go over.  The clients appreciated that I gave them the full time, but the spa owner did not. 🙁 10-15 minutes is not sufficient time to ground yourself,  change linens, and prepare for the next session.

Everyone except the spa owners suffer when sessions are cut short. Clients lose a total of one full treatment every six sessions (10 minutes times 6 sessions is an hour)! Therapists don’t get enough time to keep up/recharge and are pressured to try to fit a full massage into 50 minutes, which is hard enough to do even in 60 minutes.  Unless you are dead set on the ‘spa experience’, I would highly recommend an independent massage therapist or a business who can give you the full 60/90/120 minute session.  Pay attention to the time the massage begins and when it ends.  You pay good money for massage so I believe you should get what you pay for!!

 

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.

Find Painful Muscle Relief Through Trigger Point Massage

What exactly is a Trigger Point or, Myofascial Trigger Points (TrP)?  They are simply a firm, tangible, tender spot found in any given muscle group with symptoms including deep, aching pain, numbness, inflammation and a loss of range of motion.  Many people would compare these spots to knots.  In my practice, I see these occur primarily in the back/neck and Gluteal Muscles, but they can be found on any muscle in the body.  These “knots” are also frequently accompanied by referred pain.  Referral Pain is pain that is felt elsewhere from where the source is.  For example, if I was applying pressure to a tender Trigger Point in the Lower Back of a client, they may also feel that tender pain occurring in their Hamstring.

There are several causes for these painful spots:

  • Over-training and/or improper form
  • Muscle weakness
  • Car Accident
  • Poor Diet
  • Beginning a new exercise program
  • Emotional and/or physical trauma
  • Insomnia/sleep disorders

Trigger Point Therapy has become very popular since its first use in 1843.  Dr. F. Froriep, a German Physician, found tender spots, which he named “muscle callouses” in the muscles of his patients.  He discovered that treating these specific spots brought immense relief.  There has been a lot of research on this issue since, but the most recent and well-respected is from Janet G. Travell M.D. and David G. Simons M.D.  Dr. Travell worked with terminally ill patients.  She found that her patients complained more of and had more concerns with the pain instead of the serious illness that was being treated.  She dedicated her practice to pain syndromes and alleviating patients’ specific pain.

Trigger point massage therapy is specifically designed to alleviate the source of the pain through cycles of isolated pressure and release. In this type of massage for trigger point therapy, the recipient actively participates through deep breathing as well as identifying the exact location and intensity of the discomfort.

The results and benefits of trigger point massage are releasing contracted areas in the muscles thus alleviating pain. You can experience a significant decrease in pain after just one treatment. Receiving massage with trigger point therapy regularly can help naturally manage pain and stress from chronic injuries.

Self Massage – Trigger Points http://saveyourself.ca/tutorials/trigger-points.php