Thursday, September 29, 2011

Understanding Chronic Pain

Pain originates in the brain, no matter where we feel it in the body.  Pain that lasts more than a few months is chronic pain.  When pain seems to be persistent long after the tissues have healed and the medical establishment can no longer find anything wrong with you, if you're anything like me, your going to try to keep finding answers to help yourself until that pain is gone.  Let's first talk about the soft tissues of the body.  In the last blog post, we already talked about the role of the connective tissues in myofascial release, so today, we'll talk about trigger points.  Trigger points are knots in the muscles.  If you have ever had a therapeutic massage, you'll know exactly what I am talking about.  If you go to a doctor for pain, trigger points do not show up on any kind of medical imaging exams.  The way to work out these trigger points is professional massage from a therapist who is trained in trigger point therapy, as well as using a golf ball or tennis ball at home if you know where the trigger points are, and use the ball to work them out.

Another area of our body that we store chronic pain is the Central Nervous System or (CNS) for short.  It is possible to store pain memory very deep into our tissues even long after everything else in the physical level has healed.  Craniosacral Therapy works with your CNS to help take your tissues back to the original source of pain. We have talked about craniosacral therapy in more detail in a previous blog post which explains how it works.

One of the most important areas that we need to look at with chronic pain is our emotions.  Think back to how you felt when the problem that caused the pain started.  Those emotions are often stored in our cellular memory years after we thought that we have gotten over an event.  How often have you thought you were over something years ago, just to one day find yourself suddenly crying about it?  Reiki is a gentle energy work that touches every level of your being from physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.  There is also a previous blog post that discusses reiki in more detail.

Integrative body work is several different modalities that are great for addressing several issues such as chronic pain.  Massage, reiki and craniosacral therapy complement each other so well, that they can either be performed separately or combined into an integrative session. There are many modalities out there that are great for addressing chronic pain.  I touched on the three modalities that I use in client sessions and that I have done on myself on a regular basis. 

As always, I like to end each blog post with some self care tips that you can do on your own from home, or with a teacher.  Yoga, qigong, tai chi are all movement therapies that are great for chronic pain and can address your physical, mental and emotional levels all at the same time.  There is one book in particular that is written for the lay person to get rid of your trigger points, it is called: "Trigger Point Therapy Workbook" by Clair Davies.  I love this book and have had it for years.  It is important to know, when using this book, that pain often comes from a different area of the body other than where we are feeling it.  I use this book in conjunction with receiving professional massage therapy.  It works for me for taking the edge off the pain in between sessions, but I still need to be worked on regularly by another person.  Professional massage therapists can find things on us that we can't find on ourselves, even with the use of a good book.

Two good books that I like for exploring the emotional side of pain is called, "Heal Your Body" and "Heal Your Life" by Louise Hay.  The "Heal Your Body" book has common emotions associated with different health conditions and affirmations for each one.  This is not an all inclusive book and not everyone will be able to identify with the cause of their illness, but it is a good place to start.  The "Heal Your Life" book has you exploring your entire life and some inner child healing.  The "Heal Your Life" book has the "Heal Your Body" book included in it, so you only really need to buy one book.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Myofascial Release-stretching the connective tissue

Myofascial release is stretching the connective tissue that surrounds your muscles.  When we go in for massage therapy to address pain, the first thing we think of is muscle.  The connective tissue that surrounds your muscles can also cause some pain and injury problems if not addressed.  Imagine all of your muscles wrapped in saran wrap in order to hold everything together.  When a part of our body becomes injured or stressed, imagine that saran wrap turning into shrink wrap.  The tighter that connective tissue becomes, the more pain and misalignment to the posture can happen.  The connective tissue surrounds your muscles, but is very close to the surface of your skin, which makes access to it in order to be able to stretch it pretty simple.  The way that we stretch the connective tissue is different than how we stretch muscle.  Muscle stretches are usually deep and held for about 30 seconds.  Because the consistency of connective tissue is different than muscle, the way we would approach stretching it is also different.  To stretch the connective tissues in our body, the stretches are gentle and held for a few minutes.  Stretching the connective tissue too aggressively can make the pain and injury worse and lengthen your recovery time.  Tendons and ligaments are among the tissues in our bodies that are considered connective tissue.  Massage therapists who are trained in myofascial release are able to stretch the connective tissue during your therapy session.  It is another wonderful relief of pain, many repetitive stress type pain and injuries are because of tight connective tissue.  Nothing is more effective for me than being stretched by someone else, because the muscle is relaxed and I can be taken into further range of motion than if I used my muscles to stretch myself.  However, there are ways of stretching your own connective tissues in between your therapy sessions.  I have 2 books that I refer to when I do stretches on myself.  One is for lower body and the other is for the upper body.  I don't recommend using these books by themselves without seeking the help of a qualified professional as you can injure yourself if you're not careful.

The book that I like for the upper body is called: "Conquering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Other Repetitive Strain Injuries" by Sharon J. Butler.  It is important to follow the instructions in this book about doing the stretches safely.

The book that I like for the lower body is called: "Yin Yoga, Outline of a Quiet Practice" by Paul Grilley.  This is not your usual yoga, it is very slow, gentle and intense.  I recommend finding a live yin yoga class if you're going to use this book so that you are getting supervised help from a teacher.