Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Massage for Arthritis

This is for you accurate meteorologists out there :)  When we think of arthritis, we immediately think of the joints.  The joints are where the pain is felt and there is there is usually some degeneration going on to explain the pain.  What causes arthritis and what helps with the symptoms may vary from person to person.  I am going to talk about possible causes and treatments from the perspective of the muscles.  We can often get what is called "referred pain", meaning that the pain can sometimes come from a different location other than where we are feeling it.  One thing that can happen when muscle becomes tight and stays that way for a long period of time, is that it impinges the nerves and pulls on the bones and joints, therefore causing a problem with the alignment.  The reason that proper alignment is so important is because there is more wear and tear to the joints when the bones are not properly aligned.  So, is arthritis caused by muscles being in a chronic shortened state, or do they get in a chronic shortened state due to problems from the joint?  The answer to this question can vary from person to person.  A traumatic injury such as a car accident can cause immediate damage.  The way that we walk, sleep and sit can sneak up on us over a long period of time due to repetitive motion. 

Some self care tips are regular massage and exercise that is right your your current situation.  Yoga and tai chi are great land based exercises and many people have really felt the benefits of aqua aerobics.  Getting into the water is very good for you and doesn't put too much impact on your joints.  If you get massaged regularly and enjoy the benefits of heat, some massage therapists do offer heated alternatives that can be added to your massage session.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Unexplained Pain

There can be many reasons why someone can have pain without knowing why or what they may have done.  I'm going to talk about the kind of pain that is caused by repetitive motion or being in one position for a long period of time.  First of all, these things take time to manifest as pain.  Nothing happens over night just because the pain is new and just started.  If there isn't a direct cause from a traumatic injury, chances are that the problem as been cooking for a while even though you are just now feeling it.  If you're suddenly having pain without knowing why and can't recall a specific event, back track your daily life.  How do you sleep, work or play?  I often get people coming in to see me because the slept wrong the night before, didn't feel the pain until the next day and they honestly believe that it's new pain.  When I go to work on the muscles, they are like concrete.  Muscles do not get that tight over night.  The reason why you wouldn't know about it or feel it because of how tight the muscle has to get in order for you to feel the pain.  It takes months to years for the muscles to become tight enough to impinge on the nerve.  Tight muscle can also pull on the bone hard enough to pull the joints out of proper alignment causing even more pain.  When you sit at a desk, how are you positioned.  Are you leaning back or forward?  Do you lean on an elbow?  Do you tilt your head when you talk on the phone, or do you have a head set?  Is the monitor directly in front of you or are you turning your head to look at the screen?I recently worked on someone who had range of motion problems and pain in his left rotator cuff.  He had no idea why or what he did, but he was in a lot of pain and couldn't move his shoulder comfortably.  I looked at his intake form and noticed that he is a college professor.  I asked him about the long hours of grading papers and whether or not it's done on a computer or on paper.  As it turns out, he leans on his left elbow as he is relying on his right hand to move the mouse.  By doing that, he was out of proper alignment and impinging on some major nerve supply.  Also, pay attention to your sleeping position and what position you find yourself waking up in.  Stomach sleepers tend to have neck problems from having their heads tilted for 8 hours straight pinching off some important arteries.  That can also put pressure on your hips and low back.  Side sleepers sometimes tend to lay on an arm and pinch off some major nerve supply that they end up feeling in their shoulder, arm or elbow.  If you lay on your back, pay attention to whether or not you keep your head straight or bent off to the side.  People who wake up with it bent off to the side are pinching nerves, arteries and pulling on some of the smaller and more delicate muscles of the neck that attach to the ribs and affect alignment of the neck and shoulders. 

Some self care tips are proper ergonomics, whether it be your work station, the way that you drive or special pillows for sleeping.  This is number one in order for anything else to work.  Regular massage and exercise will help to support your change in proper ergonomics.  Body mechanics mean head straight on top of your shoulders and shoulders blades directly on your back and not slouched forward.  Our heads are the weight of a bowling ball and have that kind of impact on our spine when we're letting our head sink forward.