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Massage Therapy for Low Back Pain

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By Matthew Snow, L.M.T

There is nothing like low back pain to let you know how much your low back is involved in even the simplest of movements. Something as simple as sitting down is excruciating and involves all of your concentration to avoid severe pain.  Low back pain can be frustrating as the pain can be just fine and dandy as you move about your day but the minute you lie down to go to sleep the pain keeps you up at night and prevents you from restful sleep.

Massage therapy is an effective treatment for many types of low back pain. Even for conditions involving arthritis, bulging or herniated discs, and pinched nerves: massage can help!

Soft Tissue Disorders

The low back is a complex structure with many joints and tons of soft tissue to support and protect the sensitive joints and nerves in the area.  The low back is a truly remarkable design as it provides you with a great deal of ability to move. But that in itself is the problem with the low back. It provides the great ability to move while also having the burdensome task of providing stability of the weight of your upper body and transmits the force of your lower body through the pelvis.

Once upon a time it was thought that most low back pain was to have a structural component to it and often surgery was used as a treatment. But that is no longer the case and most low back pain is thought to have soft tissue components. Most Doctors do not want to do surgery as it is not always [...]

Massage Therapy for Treatment of Tension Headaches in Greenwich, CT

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By Matthew Snow, L.M.T

You know the feeling. A dull ache at the back of your head that seems connected to your eye forcing your eye half closed. All you want to do is lay down and sleep off your throbbing headache.

The people conversing and laughing are totally unaware that your head is splitting. You try rubbing your temples because somewhere you read that can help headaches.

In desparation you see your doctor or neurologist and have tests only to find out you have tension headaches.

They give you medicine which mildly helps and they tell you to reduce your stress,  but you still get headaches. And they give you no other treatment options.

Great. Now what?

There is hope for those of you suffering from tension headaches. Massage therapy is an extremely effective treatment for tension headaches.

What Are Tension Headaches?

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache and can be unbearable to the point that you think you have a migraine headache.

Tension headaches are caused by muscular tension. Muscles create a pulling force(that’s tension) to create movement, stop movement (like holding a bag on the shoulder,) or to slow movement down (lowering your coffee cup on the table.)

The most commonly involved muscles are muscles of the upper back, neck, and shoulders.

A common cause of tension headaches happens when the head, neck, and trunk are too far forward. This puts stress on the spinal joints and puts pressure on the nerves and blood vessels as they exit the head.

This also forces your muscles to work hard against gravity. As the muscles work to hold you up they create waste that is irritating [...]

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    How Tight Muscles Keep You from Your Best Sports Performance

How Tight Muscles Keep You from Your Best Sports Performance

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I’m sure you’ve been at an exercise class and have been told, or yelled at to “tighten that stomach!” or “squeeze those glutes!” So it is logical that a common question I’ve been asked is “why are you working out my tight muscles? Aren’t tight muscles a good thing?”

There is a difference between a tight muscle and a strong muscle. A muscle that is tight has too much tone when it is at rest and strength is the ability to of the nervous system to recruit neurons in the muscle fibers.

Strength is really cool to me and is probably a term that means different things to different people. Strength is defined as the maximal force a muscle can generate against a given force. There are different types of strength: maximum strength, strength endurance, and power.

Strength Is Not What You Think It Is!

You may think that strength comes from the size of the muscle but not really. Muscle strength comes from the ability of the nervous system to recruit neurons in the muscle fibers.

The muscle is made up of thousands of muscle fibers or cells. Within 1 muscle cell there are many neurons connected to it. So, in one muscle there are thousands of neurons in one muscle. The more neurons that fire the more the muscle works.

This is why muscle size is thought to be the main component of strength because the bigger the muscle means more muscle fibers and more motor neurons which means more of the muscle will work.

 

What Smart Strength Experts Know

With everyday movements not all of the neurons fire because you don’t need them [...]

The Top 5 Ways Massage Can Help You

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What comes to your mind when you think of massage? Fancy white robes with slippers, incense, and candles? Most promoters of massage focus on the relaxation side of massage and while relaxation is a noble goal this neglects most of the very important benefits of massage such as pain relief and normalizing soft tissue dysfunction.

Massage therapy is gaining acceptance more and more as being effective in healing soft tissue disorders.

What exactly is massage and what can it do? Massage is the use of the hands to affect the health of the soft tissues. If you look up neck and low back pain on Web MD you will find that most neck and low back pain is considered to have soft tissue problems and not structural problems as once was thought.

There are many soft tissue problems that can create a whole slew of very confusing and scary symptoms. These are the most common soft tissue problems and how massage can help.

Those Dang Muscle Knots

Muscle knots, or trigger points are considered the most common soft tissue problem and are the most under diagnosed. Many people claim that trigger points are just made up by massage therapists and chiropractors but this is not true. One of the first people credited with  studying trigger points was a medical doctor [...]

The 6 Best Muscles to Self Massage for Instant Relief of Neck and Upper Back Tension

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By Matthew Snow, Licensed Massage Therapist

All you really need to find relief from neck and upper back tension that results from postural stress or overwork is a tennis ball and a map of where to go.

 Here are the best muscles to target for instant relief of neck and upper back tension.  But before you begin here are a few things to know.

As you begin you may feel bumps or rope like tissue and they may be sore.  Don’t be afraid of them.  They are your muscles.  You can tell what muscle you are on depending on the orientation of the rope like band.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can use any technique.  You can use a circular motion, you can go across the muscle, or you can hold the pressure.  Using the tennis ball with a sock against a wall helps for easier placement of  the tennis ball .  The most important thing is being specific to the muscle.

 

         

 

The Lower Trapezius: My Favorite Muscle

 

The lower trapezius is my favorite muscle because it is a major source of upper and mid back pain but often is overlooked by massage therapists and most credit for tension between the shoulder blades is given to the rhomboids.

This muscle can be difficult to self massage on yourself because it is on a diagonal.  To find this muscle take your tennis ball and roll it down the edge of your shoulder blade.  It will be about halfway down the blade.  Once you find the ropy band that feels like it is diagonal across your back you can roll across the band, use circular motions on it, or just hold the [...]

Rotator Cuff Injuries and How Massage Therapy Can Help

 I am sure most of you have heard of the rotator cuff.  You may equate the rotator cuff with baseball.  But most clients I have seen with rotator cuff injuries don’t play baseball, or sports at all, and many are sitting at a computer all day.  There is a reason for this.

What Are Rotator Cuff Injuries?

The rotator cuff is actually a group of 4 small muscles.  The function of the rotator cuff is to stabilize the arm into the shoulder socket.  Stabilization of the arm into the shoulder socket is required for all movements of the arm and shoulder and the rotator cuff is subject to muscle strains and tendinitis. The most commonly injured rotator cuff muscles are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor.  The subscapularis is the least injured.  The supraspinatus attaches on the top of the scapula and passes through the acromial arch to attach on the top of the arm.  The fact that the supraspinatus passes through this arch is one of the reasons it is the most injured and talked about rotator cuff muscle.  When the supraspinatus tendon is injured from the subacromial arch it may also be diagnosed as impingement syndrome. Other muscles and soft tissue that can be affected through impingement syndrome is the long head of the bi-ceps tendon and the sub- acromial bursae.

 
Impingement Syndrome
When the arm is raised into abduction (out to the side), or into flexion (in the front of the body), or internally rotated the space between the acromial arch and the arm is narrowed.  This space is occupied by the supraspinatus, the long head of the biceps tendon, and the sub-acromial bursae.  This is one reason why sports with an overhead movement can injure these structures. [...]

Get Fat in Winter Time with Family and Freinds!

Most people like fall.  It is a transition from the dog days of  hot weather into  cooler months with pretty colors, but with it brings a dread of winter and colder weather to come.  However, I  appreciate winter and all that it has to bring.  My appreciation for winter comes from Chinese Medicine Philosophy which looks at all seasons as necessary stages of life.

In Chinese Medicine there is the Five Elements or Five Transitions.  Each element has an associated season and an associated organ.  Within these transitions there are also emotions.

The stages start with water which is the source of all life, and is associated with winter.   As the snow covers the frozen earth below the world is dormant and still.  As spring approaches the energy shifts from dormancy to animation.  The snow(water) has melted and has nourished the ground below and the buds start to spring up.  This is the growing stage of life.  Then summer comes when life is at it’s fullest.  All the trees and life are at their peak.  Between summer and fall is the earth cycle when everything that came before is now ripening.  Now the energy begins to shift to fall and back into dormancy.  The trees and plants fall back to the ground to nourish and give life back to the  soil.  Then winter comes again.

This might sound like a depressing Robert Frost poem,  but in this cycle is a beautiful approach to looking at how we relate to this world.   This cycle can apply to the creation of the universe and us.  The winter is in utero, when we are being nourished by our mothers, spring is birth and childhood, summer is adolescence to [...]

Disc Problems and How Massage Therapy Can Help

Back in 2007 my first week working in a Rehabilitation office was intense.  There were 2 cases of disc herniation in my first day and I remember them well.  Both cases had severe pain and were on the verge of tears.  It was pain that they had never experienced before and this was their last resort before surgery.  I really wasn’t sure if they would get better because of the amount of pain they had but each treatment they had they felt improvement.  After 4 weeks they were much better and it was such a transformation in their personalities from the first day I met them from being depressed and hopeless to pretty much being how they probably were before I met them.  That was seven years ago and I still see them once in awhile and they have never had a problem with that since.

 

 

The spinal joints are quite complex.  There are three joints within a spinal joint.  The 2 facet joints  and the disc joint. The disc joint has three parts: the annulus fibrosis, the nucleus fibrosis, and vertebral endplate.
The disc  allows  movement,  absorbs shock and bears weight,  and provides space for the intervertebral foramen for the nerves to pass through.  The annulus fibrosis is made of many layers of fibrocartilage and each layer has many fibers in different directions to resist movement in different directions.  The nuclues pulposus is in the center of the annulus fibrosis.  A disc bulge or herniation is when fibers of the annulus fibrosis starts to crack or thin and the nucleus pulposis is allowed to bulge through the annulus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are different degrees of disc bulge or herniation.  A protrusion is when the disc [...]

Ibuprofen for Headaches? No! Get a Massage

Headache Relief and Treatment with Massage Therapy

As much as  90% of adults have a headache each year.  There are 4 categories of headaches: tension headaches, vascular headaches, chemical headaches, and traction inflammatory headaches.  Tension headaches are one of  the most common and make up 90% of  headaches.  Migraines fall under vascular headaches and make up 6 – 8% of headache cases.   Chemical headaches are caused by chemical exposure and traction inflammatory headaches are the rarest and indicate a more serious problem. (Werner p. 316 – 320)

Causes of Tension Headaches

Now, don’t get me wrong, I take ibuprefen or whatever to take the edge off but if you get frequent or recurring headaches massage is the best thing for  headache relief and treatment of headaches because it addresses muscular tension. The upper back and neck muscles are the most involved muscles in tension headaches.  The most common muscles I see involved are the upper, middle and lower  trapezius, levator scapulae, splenius capitis,  rhomboids and S.C.M.  The most notable and talked about cause for tension in these muscles is of  course poor posture and forward head carriage but anything that stresses these muscles will cause tension and trigger points in these muscles.

Any activities where muscles of the shoulder and neck are used can cause trigger points and therefore cause headaches.   The trapezius,  rhomboids, and levator scapulea all retract the scapula so any motions that would bring the arm and scapula back will use these muscles (like rowing.) The upper trapezius and lower trapezius help to upwardly rotate the scapula so any motions where the arms move up will use these muscles.  The rhomboids and levator scapulae downwardly rotate the scapula so any activities where [...]

My Freakin’ Neck Hurts! Why?

Sometimes it is confusing as to why we feel tight or have pain in certain areas and you may ask ” why the hell do I have pain there?”  When dealing with chronic tension or pain it is important to eliminate as many stresors as possible and without some basic understanding of how muscles create movement that can be difficult.  Hopefully this article will help you to understand the different ways a muscle may contract and help you to use your body more efficiently.

Muscles are specialized to shorten toward their center and this is contraction. There are 3 ways a muscle will attempt to shorten toward it’s center: concentrically, eccentrically, and isometrically.

A concentric contraction is when a muscle is successful in shortening toward it’s center and when this happens then one or both of the bones the muscle attatches to will move.

An eccentric contraction is when the muscle attempts to shorten toward its center but instead lenghtens.  This happens whenthe muscle is trying to slow a movement down

An isometric contraction is when a muscle attempts to shorten toward its center and no movement happens. This would occur when holding objects.

Concentric Muscle Contractions

Muscles are like ropes or rubber bands.  If you look at the muscles and you see the lines those are the muscle fibers.  The muscle fibers are the muscles lines of pull.  So when that muscle pulls you can see which direction it would pull the joint or joints.  When the muscles runs vertical it will pull in that vertical line.  If  it runs horizontal or diagonal it will pull in that direction.  In this way you can look at any muscle and see what action it will perform if you  remember that [...]