Friday, November 1, 2013

My Upper Body Self Care Regimen

As many of you already know, I have my own history of chronic pain that got me interested in helping others in pain.  Between self care, doing yoga and seeing my massage therapist every 2 weeks, I do pretty well most of the time.  However, anyone else who experiences chronic pain knows all those occasional bad days or a bad week.  I want to share with you my upper body routine that I do when staying well and when bouncing back from a hard week.

I take my body through the phase of tissue healing that I learned in school.  In a nutshell, that's knowing when to use cold and when to use heat and massage. Between being a musician and a massage therapist, I get flare ups every now and then and take time off of rehearsal and work in order to allow the inflammation phase to pass.  For the first 2-3 days, I use only cold.  A few times a day or more, I run my hands, wrists and forearms under running cold water for about a minute or until it know longer feels tingly.  As night before going to bed, I have different Young Living essential oils that I like as a topical analgesic.  My favorite so far is the combination of lavender and peppermint together. 

After a few days, when the inflammation has a chance to pass, that's when I introduce heat, stretching and self massage.  I have a paraffin bath that I love.  The first thing I do, is stretch the fascia, the soft tissue that surrounds the muscles.  I refer to the fascia as our saran wrap.  If your saran wrap is tight, it won't matter what else you do.  You need to release your saran wrap.  I have a book, "Conquering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome" by Sharon Butler.  It's not just for carpal tunnel.  It's all upper body myofascial stretching.  She has the book laid out so that you can either pick by hobby or vocation or by where you feel the pain.  Very user friendly.

The next thing that I do is use my paraffin bath.  This is heated wax that provides deep heat for the hands.

After that, I do self massage and stretching of the muscles.  My favorite for that is a DVD that I own called, "Health Hands, Wrists and Forearms".

I save strengthening for a day or so after the stretching.  I have a squeeze ball as well as a device called, "The Handisizer".  The Handisizer comes with different strengths of rubber bands so that you can decide how much resistance that you want and it comes with a booklet of suggested exercises.

I do this in the order that I do for two reasons.  1) To allow the proper phase of tissue healing.  2) Because exercising tissue that is already tight, makes it tighter and weaker.  It needs to be massaged.  My routine is in addition to seeing my massage therapist every two weeks.  It's important to combine self care with professional care since problems can be coming from other areas of the body other than where we feel them and that where a professional comes in.