Monday, January 28, 2013

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome has become a common diagnosis with more jobs being at a desk, working a computer.  Carpal tunnel symptoms can often be caused by tight muscle and surrounding soft tissue.  When we sit at a computer, we often have the tendency to stick our neck out forward and hunch our shoulders forward.  Over time, that can impinge the brachial plexus.  When the muscles of the neck and chest become tight, they impinge the brachial plexus.  I like to think of the brachial plexus as a tree trunk and the nerves that go down the arms, hands and wrists as branches off of that tree trunk.  This can manifest as carpal tunnel symptoms, thoracic outlet symptoms (cold feeling in the hands), tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, headaches (both tension and migraine) and among various other pain conditions.  Some people receive a diagnosis and a recommendation for pills or surgery by their doctor's and others turn to more alternative therapies such as massage, reiki, craniosacral therapy and acupuncture among other things.  I usually recommend being on a regular schedule for body work instead of a sporadic schedule in order to make an informed decision about more aggressive treatments.  Thoracic outlet syndrome is another common diagnosis.  If it is caused by an extra rib, then surgery is the only thing that can be done about it.  However, tight muscles can cause thoracic outlet symptoms without the additional rib being present. 

Some self care techniques include watching your posture when you're at the computer, driving or doing other activities.  Head stacked on top of the shoulders with the shoulder blades directly on your back.  Make sure that your computer monitor is centered in front of you without the need to turn or cock your head.  One of my favorite self care books is:  Conquering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Other Repetitive Strain Injuries by Sharon J. Butler.  The book shows how to stretch the fascia that surrounds the muscles.  You can look up the stretches by hobby or occupation or by the area of the body that hurts.  I also like to use a hand strengthening device called the "Handisizer".  This device comes with different strength bands.  I like that it's versatile to change the strength since there are other hand strengthening devices out there that are one strength only, making you purchase more if you get stronger and need a heavier strength.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Migraine Headaches

I have been seeing and hearing people talk about experiencing migraine headaches lately.  There are many reasons why people experience migraine headaches, so what works and what doesn't can vary from person to person.  Today, I'm going to talk about the types of treatments that I am familiar with that can help.  One common source of migraines is obviously stress.  When the muscles of the neck and shoulders become tight, they can radiate migraine symptoms.  Using massage therapy can address this type of migraine headache in addition to partaking in activities that help eliminate stress from your body such as hobbies, yoga, tai chi, qigong.  Another common treatment that can sometimes help migraine headaches is craniosacral therapy.  If you have had oral surgery, orthodontia or any kind of trauma to the head, you'll have some misalignment to your cranial bones (the bones of the skull).   Craniosacral therapy gently releases the soft tissues that become tight, therefore releasing the cranial bones so they can self correct back to their original position.  Craniosacral therapy also addresses the central nervous system.  I find craniosacral therapy to be more relaxing than a massage due to how deep in goes into the central nervous system. Migraines can sometimes be neurological in nature and can benefit from craniosacral therapy.  If you're experiencing a migraine, essential oils can sometimes stop a migraine in it's tracks.  Which oils work can vary from person to person with peppermint and lavender combined together being the most common.  Last, but not least, hormonal imbalance can be another cause.  Women tend to experience migraines more often than men.  If you're noticing a correlation between when you have a migraine and your cycle, I would recommend getting your hormones checked and go from there.  Sometimes, balancing out our energy (chi) can be effective in any kind of pain relief which is why I mentioned the tai chi and qigong.