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What Causes Leg Cramps and What to Do About Them

There’s nothing worse than being snug in your bed during a deep sleep when suddenly you jump up in agonizing pain in your leg. Writhing around and trying to find that magic position to relieve your leg cramp while also trying to not make your cramp worse.

Usually the advice that I hear is a condescending “oh just eat more potassium.” That’s just bad advice  because as you get older there are some relatively serious conditions that can cause leg cramps.

This article will discuss what leg cramps are, some causes, and what you can do when they happen and how you can prevent them.
Cramp vs Spasm
A cramp is a sudden, violent contraction of your muscle. While a spasm is a gradual guarding or protective splinting and tightening of your muscles. A spasm is usually due to an injury. A cramp happens when the muscle is quickly shortened.
Why Do Cramps Happen?
The reason for cramps is not completely known. Usually it happens when a muscle is suddenly and quickly shortened.  The muscle groups that are most susceptible to cramps are your hamstrings, back of your calf muscles, and the bottoms of your feet but can also happen in your arms and hands. The common reasons for muscle cramps are overexertion, electrolyte imbalance and other medical concerns such as:

Less Severe:

Dehydration
Muscle overexertion, exercise, or injury
Not enough calcium, potassium, and other elctrolytes in your blood
Sitting for too long with your muscles in a shortened position
standing for long periods on hard surfaces

Medical Conditions

Kidney problems
Anemia
Circulation problems (arteriosclerosis)
Cirrhosis

Hyperthyroidism

Hypothyroidism

Type 1 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes

Neuromuscular disorders 
Osteoarthritis
Parkinson’s [...]

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    What Is Cupping Therapy? A Guide On Conditions Treated and What Research Says

What Is Cupping Therapy? A Guide On Conditions Treated and What Research Says

A little over a week ago, during the Olympics, we saw the media explode with reactions about Michael Phelps use of cupping therapy. We saw articles that poked fun at athletes for using all kinds of crazy treatments. Some said that cupping had little research and worked mainly as a placebo while other articles gave horrible images of cupping gone bad, and  we saw articles that gave glowing reviews of just how amazing cupping therapy is .

This article will tell you what cupping therapy is and what is used for, what the research says, and why athletes use complementary and alternative medicine.

What Is Cupping Therapy

Cupping is used in many different cultures but is mainly considered to belong to Traditional Chinese Medicine. It involves a plastic cup, glass, or bamboo which creates a suction over an area of skin. It is thought to drain excess fluids and toxins, loosen adhesions and lift connective tissue, bring blood flow to stagnant skin and muscles, and to stimulate the peripheral nervous system. Cupping therapy is used to treat a wide variety of ailments such as:

Herpes zoster
Acne
Facial paralysis
Cervical spondylosis
Blood disorders such as anemia and hemophilia
Rheumatic diseases such as arthritis and fibromyalgia
Fertility and gynecological disorders
Skin problems such as eczema and acne
High blood pressure
Migraines
 Anxiety and depression
Bronchial congestion caused by allergies and asthma
Varicose veins

Dry Cupping

Dry cupping involves creating a suction over an acupoint or sensitive area for about three minutes or more.  The cups may also be moved over the skin with lubricants.

Wet Cupping

Wet cupping involves making a slight incision in your skin and placing the cups over the incision. When I used to work at Rehabilitation Medicine and Acupuncture [...]

How to Calm Your Brain During Conflict [Infographic]

Conflict can cause negative emotions to surface such as anger and frustration. These negative emotions can lead to physical effects such as loss of energy, feeling sick, and can keep you from seeing the problem clearly.

By controlling how you react to conflict it can help you to solve problems quickly and effectively – and without ruining your entire day.

I recently had an insurance problem where the computer apparently forgot to send my insurance policy to the insurance company.  A family member needed hospital treatment and the hospital told me that I had no insurance. “What? Of course I do. Let me go figure this out.”  That started a three month process of calling the insurance company and going back and forth. If I did not figure this out it would have left me with a 31,000 hospital bill.

So yeah. I was stressed out. The first two weeks I freaked out and was frustrated with everyone I talked to.  However, I made a terrible mistake. I chose to talk about my problem with friends and family. What this did was cause me to prolong my frustration and only revved me up even more. Three days after this happened I actually became nauseous and sick for an entire day.  After two weeks I laughed at myself because I realized that I was just making the situation worse.

In the book  “Don’t Bite the Hook: Finding Freedom from Anger, Resentment, and Other Destructive Emotions” the author describes a split second where you can feel the emotion of frustration and you can either ignore it or bite it. Once you bite it, though, that’s it. The frustration will open up like a flood gate. I had realized that I [...]

The Best Sleep Positions For a Good Night’s Rest

The most common question I am asked is what is the best way to sleep. The short answer is there isn’t any. The best way to sleep is probably the position that is most natural for your body . However, some positions might be worse than others, but with a few modifications they can have fewer pain symptoms and leave you feeling refreshed and rested.

I searched the web for some tips on best sleeping positions, and this is what I found.

 

This is my favorite video I found. Although using four pillows is a bit intense and might annoy your partner, it has some good suggestions. I particulary like his suggestion for stomach sleepers. 

Back Sleepers

When sleeping on the back place a pillow under the knees to take pressure off of the low back.  Then with pillows placed on either side you can rest your arms on them. This can prevent your arms falling asleep in the middle of the night.

 

 

Side Sleepers

Sleeping purely on your side can compress your shoulders and create aches or pains in your shoulder and make your arms fall asleep. Instead try the modified side position below.

 

 

The modified side position can help to distribute your weight more evenly and opens up your shoulders. This will take compression off of the shoulders and arms.  Begin with a pillow between your legs. Then place your bottom arm either underneath the pillow or place your arm on top of the pillow.  Then with a pillow directly behind you lean back on it.

 

 

The great thing about the modified sleep position is if you want to switch sides in the middle of the night simply roll over.

 

Stomach Sleepers

Sleeping on your stomach is often not recommended because it [...]

Should You Get Longer Massages or Shorter Massage Sessions?

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When it comes to maintaining your health, improving stress, or managing a pain condition you may want to rethink longer and less frequent massage sessions.

Whenever I put my hands on someone it is inevitable that someone will say, “I wish I could do this every day!” And why shouldn’t you? You might think that the longer a session the better. When you look at massage research on health conditions all the research usually uses twenty to thirty minutes of massage two – three times a week for five to six weeks(1, 2, 3).

Massage therapy, like any therapy, is cumalative. You wouldn’t exercise once a month to get stronger. Or take medication once a month and expect to get better. No, you would do the prescribed dosage to get the results you are looking for.

Massage therapy works in a similar manner to exercise. Exercise places a stress on the body which encourages a healthy change in the tissues of your body. Long bouts of infrequent exercise will not lead to dramatic changes in your body. Massage works in the same way.

Long periods of stress, whether physical or mental, leads to changes in your physiology. Long hours of repeated muscular force leads to changes in the muscular tissue such as adhesions (scar tissue,) lack of circulation, and trigger points (muscle knots that cause pain.)

Stressful situations also can lead to an inability for the tissue to heal, poor sleep,and anxiety.

Massage can be helpful for these conditions but these changes happen over a long period of time and to improve them will take more than a one hour massage session at once [...]

What Are Trigger Points

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If you are dealing with muscular aches and discomfort you may have trigger points. Trigger points can cause local or referred pain. They can cause headaches, pain in various parts of the body. They may cause pain that can be diagnosed as pinched nerves or herniated discs.

This video describes what trigger points are, how they form, and how to treat your own trigger points.

 

 

 
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 Matthew Snow is a Licensed Massage Therapist practicing in Greenwich, CT. If you would like to schedule or make an appointment call (203) 660-0584 or email hello@h2tmuscleclinic.com 

Is It Right To Blame Poor Health On Lifestyle Choices?

 

 

 

I read a lot of blogs on health and wellness. And many times I am frustrated with the black and white stances that are taken on preventative medicine. 

In particular I read this post on the importance of strength training. The author asserts that without outside trauma most people should not have to have hip or knee replacements.

 

What really got me peeved, though, was his strong dislike for sliding stair chairs and that the real problem lies within the bad lifestyle choices and weakness in our society. 

I have worked in a Pain Management office for eight years now. I have worked with many different pain conditions and with people who can’t walk upstairs or sit down without extreme effort. 

 

While I do think it is extremely important to build strength and eat well, that does not guarantee a life without disability or pain. 

I have seen people who did take care of themselves.  People who ate clean get cancer. And I’ve definitely seen people who weight trained still have surgeries. Those people asked me “why?  I did everything they say you should do.”

We still don’t know everything. When it comes to disease, pain, and health we just still don’t understand why sometimes people get sick.

 I have also seen lots of people take control of their health and the outcomes were amazing. 

 

The problem with looking at preventable problems as the fault of the person not taking care of themselves is this: the practitioner will lose compassion and empathy for that person. 

Furthermore, the practitioner has made a judgment which may cloud further evaluation of the client’s problem. 

The truth is that health problems like these always have layers. Always. I can’t tell you how many times I made my [...]

Enhance Your Sports Performance with Massage Therapy

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Whether you are a professional athlete, use exercise to feel good and maintain your health, or use it as a discipline to keep yourself from bad habits,  there are many ways massage therapy can help your performance. Massage therapy can improve sports performance by:

Maintain the health of the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, and ligaments.) If you maintain the health and function of the soft tissues you can help to prevent pain conditions that force you to stop your exercise.

Help reduce muscle soreness from high loads of exercise. This can help keep you fresh and ready for your next workout

Can be used to rehabilitate a problem area (muscle strain, ligament sprain, and tendinitis.) This will help speed recovery time and get you back to your sport quickly. 

 

How Does Massage Help Maintain Soft Tissue Health?

Your performance is based on how healthy your tissue is. The muscle tendon unit provides the force of all movement and provides stability to your joints (you don’t want injury to your joints because that is the structure of your body.) So it is extremely important that the tissue is healthy and functions well.

The Most Common Soft Tissue Problem: Trigger Points

Trigger points weaken the muscle. If one muscle has trigger points other muscles take over for that muscle. This causes those muscles to develop trigger points.

Trigger points are a sensitive area in the muscle that refers pain locally or to another area.  Trigger points form from repeated use of the muscle and long held contractions of the muscle. Trigger points cause a lack of circulation in the muscle tissue and this leads to a cycle of the muscle [...]

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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 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 [...]