Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Compensation of Muscles. What Does This Mean for You?

When we talk about over compensation of muscles, what is the first thing that comes to mind?  Is compensation a dirty word to you?  Is compensation and necessary mechanism of the body to you?  Either way, you are right.  The body's beautiful ability to compensate is a necessary vital function.  Like any good thing, anything can be overdone. 

So, what causes the muscles to over compensate?  Anything, really!  The major players are repetitive use and the after effects of traumatic injuries.  We do not do anything symmetrically.  If we did, that would look pretty funny.  When we do the same thing, the same way, day in and day out, our body begins to adapt.  Do you like to sit cross legged?  Do you sit with one leg folded under you?  Are you a side sleeper?  Everyday things that we would not normally think of, in addition to the things that we know we do, can contribute.  The painful affects do not always manifest right away.  You can have a new pain from something that happened in childhood.  Traumatic injuries are another one.  Ever wonder why the worst of your pain after a car accident doesn't become obvious right away?  Again, the compensation can take some time.  I have recently worked on people who felt like they had the beginnings of whiplash setting in, but we caught it fairly early.  One had a bike accident and the other had a car accident. 

What can be done about this?  Compensations do not go away on their own.  Once our body adapts to something, it typically stays there.  However, proper assessment is important.  Massaging a tight muscle, without knowing WHY it is tight, can create instability, that can leave you worse off in the long run.  Ever wonder why the problem always seems to come back?  There are many wonderful therapists, tools and techniques to choose from.  Do you homework and ask around.  I use a couple of tools, out of the many wonderful tools available out there.  One, is called neurokinetic therapy .  It is muscle testing that shows why a muscle is tight and shows where the problem is really coming from.  An example would be finding an abdominal scar compensating for the core, causing back pain.  Scar release of the scar, retest the core to get it properly functioning again and BINGO, no more back pain.  A back rub would have done absolutely nothing for that.  Another tool I use is Voila for structural joint balancing.  It is a gentle techniques that tests your equilibrium for dysfunction causing pain.  When the joint structure is balancing, the secondary muscle pain will often go away.  An example would be: Leg length differences have been corrected in as quickly as 3 breaths and have stayed corrected.  Leg length differences can cause a lot of hip, back, neck and shoulder pain.

There are many wonderful, outside of the box tools, to pick from.  Columbus, Ohio alone, has many wonderful therapists with some very healing tools that can give long term results, if you are open to it.  Some of the most effective tools out there are not traditional or anything you would normally expect.  Look around and see what is out there!

Friday, October 30, 2015

What I Am Learning In My Alexander Technique Lessons So Far

I am still new and have only taken a few lessons in the Alexander Technique.  As a musician, it has made a big difference in how I do during band rehearsals.  It teaches you how to move in a way that is primal and natural to babies.  Much of the tools we are taught in self care just trades one dysfunction for another, due to over stressing areas of the body that shouldn't be compensating in the first place.  Alexander Technique does not do that, since it is about inhibition.

I lave learned that holding our heads still creates neck tension and pain.  Our spines are made to move.  I have also learned that our pinky and ring finger are stronger for griping, than our thumb and index finger.  I learned that leading with the pinky side of the hand feels more natural, doesn't feel like I am trying and less likely to lead to injury.

I have also learned that sitting with my back completely straight kicks in over strains the back.  Having a natural poise has nothing to do with posture. 

If you are suffering from repetitive stress injuries, you can keep getting therapy until the cows come home, but if you continue to move in a way that hurts your body, the treatments will not last.

Make sure you have a well rounded approach to your treatments and self care.

While reading books on it does not substitute lessons and doesn't teach you what you need to know, it can still help to learn about the philosophy and decide if it's something  that you want to do.  A couple of books recommended by the teacher that I see:

"Body Learning: An Introduction to the Alexander Technique, Second Edition" by Micheal Gelb

"What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body: The Application of Body Mapping to Music/G6518" by Barbara Conable

Thursday, October 1, 2015

What to look for when seeking a massage therapist

When many people are looking for a massage therapist, many of them think "one size fits all".  The truth is, that we are all different enough from one another for each experience to be unique.

Are you looking for a general full body feel good massage?  Do you like it gentle?  Do you like firm pressure?  Or do you like to feel beat up afterward?  Some massage therapists will tailor the pressure and some won't, so these are good questions to ask your therapist.

Are you looking for something more specific, such as pre natal, going through chemotherapy, traumatic injuries, repetitive stress injuries?  These are all topics that require continuing education.  If you have a specific goal in mind, you will want to make sure that your massage therapist has specific training in what you need.  Did you know that if you are going through chemotherapy, that even a gentle, light touch massage can cause harm, if the massage therapist is NOT trained in oncology massage?  Did you know that there are certain areas of the body that a pregnant woman should NOT be massaged?  Did you know that there are certain pain conditions that a regular massage can make worse, if the person is not a pain relief specialist?

Where do we find the right therapist?  Google and word of mouth can both be your friend.   If you are considering Groupon, you do not know who or what kind of massage that you are getting.  Massage is a personal experience, so knowing who and what you are getting is very important.  If you wonder about what the spas and massage franchises are like, that is a similar situation.  Even if you have been there multiple times and request the same therapist, you are not guaranteed that same therapist.  If you ask the front desk for something specific like "deep tissue massage" "oncology massage" "reiki", etc., they may not always know who to put you with or the right person may not be available and you could get surprised when you show up.  If you are considering something more specific such as seeing a specialist, many of us run our own business.  If you find our website online, make sure that you read every word on the website and call or e-mail us with any questions that you might have.  Many of us take a lot of continuing education and our treatments may not always come anywhere close to what a traditional massage is like and not all specialists offer traditional massage.

When calling a massage therapist, do so without set expectations.  We cannot help anyone who already knows which technique or modality to use on them.  If the person specializes in your particular situation, hear them out.  They may offer something that works even better for you than what you originally thought you had in mind.

Last, but not least.  While it is important to make sure you know who and what you are getting, it is also important to keep an open mind.  Do NOT get so emotionally attached to one therapist or one type of therapy that you would never consider other therapists or other therapies.  The most healthy people out there see multiple people for multiple things.  If you are seeing someone who refers you out, that means you need to consider going.  If that is not right for you, then research what is.  Either way, you were referred out for a good reason.  Also, choosing the gender of your massage therapist is no different than choosing the gender of your physical therapist or chiropractor.  Again, keep an open mind.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Importance of Muscle Function

The importance of muscle function goes much more deeply than being able to move physically with ease.  It really can affect the whole person.  We'll talk about the importance of the physical layer first.  Many things can cause our bodies to over compensate.  It's a fact of life that we do not do anything symmetrically.  One example is that I often work with dental hygienists who have their spine shifted more to one side, than the other, due to leaning off to the side to clean teeth for several hours a day.  Our bodies adapt to the way that we move throughout the day.  That is how we are able to continue doing what we do.  This becomes a problem when it turns into chronic pain.  Chronic pain usually means movement dysfunction as well, although there can be many layers to chronic pain. 

Muscle function can shut off like a light switch.  The good news is, that it can often be turned back on just as easily.   So, we already know that improper muscle function can create chronic pain and movement dysfunction.  However, chronic pain and movement dysfunction can affect other layers of our being as well.  People who are moving much more easily with less pain have also reported having more energy, better mood and better sleep.  Those who are open to receiving some of the mind/body modalities such as reiki and other forms of energy work have often received results that are quick. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Do You Make Your Decisions on Healthcare Based on Who Takes Insurance? Read Why That Could Be a Big Mistake!

One of the first things that many people will ask, is whether or not I accept insurance.  I do not believe that I would be able to get anyone well if I did.  Insurance companies decide what is covered and what isn't.  They also decide whether or not to pay the therapist at all, and if they do, they are lucky if they see $20 of it 6 months down the road.  They also draw the line on the amount of time spent.  Those of us who run cashed based practices are more likely to stay competitive in our skill set.  We are more likely to take a lot of continuing education, even at the expense of traveling across the country, in order to offer cutting edge pain therapies unknown to our area of practice.  This is reflected in our fees, in order to be able to continue offering this level of skill set.  People who work in insurance accepted professions take continuing ed too.  They have to, in order to keep their licensure up to date.  However, many of them that I have met, are only willing to take classes that are accepted for keeping up their licenses and many only take the required amount and then stop.  Then some of the classes I have seen some of them take are not even real seminars.  They are those joke of a one day lecture that doesn't even teach them anything and only makes them prove they were there for credit. Then there are those of us who take what we know works, regardless of credits.  As of this writing, my state does not have a continuing ed requirement for massage therapists.  I do it for the love of my profession and for my continued commitment to offering the best that I can find.   Everything that I have done for my own pain relief, would not be covered by my insurance.  If I dismissed everyone who didn't accept insurance, I would be in worse pain now, than I was years ago.  Next time you look for someone to help you with pain relief, make your decision based on what you know that you need.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

How Does Perception Affect Wellness?

Is what makes us well and what doesn't truth, or is it our own perception of what we believe will work?  This question is deep and there are no right or wrong answers.  I see many different types of clients in the therapeutic community, but the 2 types that I tend to notice the most, are those who are open to something different and want a recommendation from the therapist, and those who come in with what they want already in mind, regardless of therapist recommendation.  Which camp do you fall in?  Being open to something different is my idea of truth and not being open to something different is my idea of perception.  Wellness is already very subjective.  There are as many definitions of wellness as there are people.  I will be honest.  I have never been able to help anyone who comes in with set expectations about which therapeutic tools and modalities that I should use on them.  Just like when I see a therapist, I have no idea what I need from them.  I just tell them where I hurt and let them get to work. This is NOT the same thing as giving us feedback.  We need the feedback, in order to come up with a treatment plan.  You will not hurt the therapist's feelings by telling them that their treatment did not work.  We need to know this.  Communication is important.

 Being open to something different has opened up so many doors for me, both personally and professionally.  I am much healthier as a result AND it has also led me to some wonderful continuing education opportunities in unknown, cutting edge pain relief techniques that work 1000 times better than traditional therapeutic massage.  This benefits me and everyone who comes to see me. 

I see another massage therapist, who does the neurokinetic therapy that I also offer.  It has always worked better for me, than any other modality to date.  My clients are benefiting as well.  However, no matter how great of a tool that we think that we have, there is always something out there that is better.  That's why massage therapists are NOT a dime a dozen.  You may need more than one person's approach.  I go to different body workers, based on my needs.  The last time that I went in for my neurokinetic therapy session, I got a very pleasant surprise.  My therapist had recently taken a class called, "Voila for Structural Balancing".  She did mostly Voila on me with a little bit of neurokinetic therapy.  I was so sold on the class that I am driving all the way from Columbus, OH to Kansas City to take when she told me that she is getting phenomenal results in ways that she never had before.  I was also very impressed by the way that I felt afterward.  I felt much more stable with better balance.  The sad part is that she told me she doesn't get to use her Voila or neurokinetic therapy on very many clients, because her clients are not open to trying something different, that could be a lot more effective for them. 

The next time that you see a therapist, make sure that your treatment plan matches your goals.  As long as you do that, everything else should fall into place for you.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

When Treatment and Healing Are Not the Same

When I seek out people to help me on my healing journey, my goal for myself is long term results.  When only short term results are obtained, there can be any of number of reasons why.  Lifestyle is one possible reason.  If you keep doing the same thing that you have always done, you will get the same results every single time.  Some things can be helped and some are just a part of life.  I am very open minded about trying different people out if I realize that I am only getting short term results over a long period of seeing the therapist a lot.  And if something else works better, then I start doing that and stop doing the stuff that clearly doesn't work for me.

What I am used to seeing in the therapeutic community is quite different.  I sometimes see people who see the same therapists every single week for years.  There isn't anything wrong with that as long as it's the best that works for you.  That can happen sometimes.  However, this is rare.  I can't tell you how many times I have seen people try something different, that works 1000x better than what they are used to, when their regular therapist is away, just to return to them and drop the other person who was really able to make a difference, once they return.  This is what those of us who practice energy work call a "secondary gain" for not healing.  A secondary gain is an emotional block that can keep us from healing.  Some people are attached to the therapist, rather than the outcome.  They look forward to seeing the person and treat it like a social gathering.

My style of pain relief that I offer clients is neurokinetic therapy.  It works with the motor control center of the brain.  It is muscle testing that shows me if a muscle is functioning at full capacity.  If it isn't, I massage the muscle that is compensating for it, in order to the the non functioning muscle functioning properly again.  Directly massaging the muscle that isn't functioning can only produce short term results, since that will make more compensation patterns appear.  Many people, including myself, get long term results, where traditional soft tissue work has failed.  If someone is seeing multiple therapists, that can sometimes create a challenge in their treatments.  The reason why this is, is because neurokinetic therapy and traditional soft tissue work can sometimes contradict each other and cancel each other out.  That means that if I get someone's motor control working better, the results may only last until the next person gets their hands on them.  This happened to me, since I also receive treatments.  I went to someone I have been seeing for years, who practices traditional soft tissue work, in between my neurokinetic therapy treatments.  It brought back pain and dysfunction that I forgot that I used to have.  I stopped going to her after that.  Those types of decisions mean that the person truly wants to heal.  However, if you insist on seeing the same person for years, regardless of results, ask yourself why.  Those types of decisions can prevent healing from happening.  I have seen many people make that decision, who really don't care if there is something else out there that may work better for them.  Next time you go into your therapy treatment, ask yourself: Do I want to heal?

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Difference Between Muscle Strength and Muscle Function in Rehabilitation

When I do my neurokinetic therapy muscle testing, I am not looking for strength.  I am testing whether or not the brain recognizes muscle function.  When strengthening muscles, other muscles will kick in and compensate.  Body movement is not a one muscle job.  Our body's wonderful ability to compensate, is how we are still able to go about our daily activities after minor injuries.  Compensation has its place and is not a dirty word.  Even when compensation causes pain, it is your body's way of letting you know that something needs attention.  When we ignore those signals, that voice will get louder. 

When I do neurokinetic therapy, the goal isn't to prevent your body from never compensating ever again.  That is impossible.  The goal is to correct movement dysfunction, so that the compensations that do happen, will help you move better and feel better.  Certain compensation patterns do need to be avoided as much as possible, in order to continue moving and feeling better, since you will want the results to stick.

You can have a muscle that is strong and still not function properly.  An example would be everyone's favorite area of the body, the core.  Many fitness people have a strong enough core, but when I do the neurokinetic therapy muscle testing, the fitness people's cores generally test the most dysfunctional.  That is because when we workout, the tendency is to push through the exercises after reaching the point of fatigue.  THAT is when compensation can happen.  Also, clenching other areas of the body can create compensation, as well.  The jaw compensating for the abdominals is a very common connection. Also, the diaphragm, as we sometimes hold our breath, when pushing through something. That is also why many people will do certain exercises that make are supposed to make them feel better and they sometimes end up feeling worse, instead. Strengthening or directly massaging a muscle that is dysfunctional, can create more compensation patterns, resulting in more pain and dysfunction. Being properly assessed can get your muscles functioning properly again.  You may also need to modify your workout in order to keep them properly functioning.

I am a massage therapist, so this is not advice about strength training.  This is to explain the difference between muscle strength and muscle function and know that they are NOT the same thing.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Injuries of Wind Instrument Musicians

Wind instrument musicians are my favorite people, because I am a wind instrument musician. Musicians, singers, dancers and artists are very vulnerable to career ending repetitive stress injuries. I have a passion for what I do for a living, helping those in pain, because repetitive stress injuries from playing the clarinet was a fact of life for me. There are many therapies out there that can help and keep us healthy, happy and playing. My two favorite therapies for problems that are unique to wind musicians are craniosacral therapy and neurokinetic therapy. I love them as a client who receives them, as well as a massage therapist who offers them.

Craniosacral Therapy: If you are a wind musician, your cranial bones are misaligned. A number of things can cause them to become misaligned from playing a wind musical instrument, oral surgery, orthodontic work, falls, etc. this can cause symptoms of TMJ, orthopedic problems, neurological problems, nerve pain, neck pain and back pain. Gently releasing the cranial bones can release tight cranial tissues. When I started receiving craniosacral therapy, my jaw felt better aligned and the intra oral work made my entire face look rearranged in a good way. One side was drooping before I had this done. When I do craniosacral therapy on clients with jaw problems, they have reported that they no longer grind their teeth and no more jaw pain or clicking. Craniosacral therapy also gently realigns my back and hips.

Neurokinetic Therapy: Neurokinetic therapy is muscle testing that tests for compensation patterns. I get long term results from it and so do my clients. We don't get long term results from traditional therapeutic massage. Working on a muscle that is being compensated for can create more compensation problems. If traditional therapeutic massage works, I have yet to see it. To be honest, traditional therapeutic massage brings back pain and dysfunction patterns that I forgot that I used to have. I no longer offer it in my practice. During my most recent Neurokinetic therapy session, the therapist found my jaw compensating for my abdominal muscles. She kept using techniques that would help my abdominal muscles become for functional, in order to release my jaw. If she had just worked on my jaw, without making the connection with the abdominals, the jaw would not have released and she would have bruised me up, trying.  My jaw felt much more aligned and it was so much easier for me to play my clarinet.  I also have a history of hand and wrist issues from playing so much. Neurokinetic therapy keeps it away. Traditional therapeutic massage makes it worse for me.

These are two of many wonderful therapies available to wind musicians with injuries or really any kind of discomfort. Best of all, they are gentle and non invasive.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Muscles, Nerves, Bones and Joints-How It Is All Connected

When we think of pain, how often do we think of it as just nerve pain, just muscles aches or the effects of arthritis only being in the joints? They actually all work together more than you think. We all know that the nerves give our muscles electrical function to move and that muscle moves the bones. When I was in massage school, that was the extent that we were taught. We were taught to treat muscles like their own independent organs. Sounds appropriate since licensed massage therapists in Ohio are only licensed to treat the soft tissues. Treating the soft tissues still affects other body systems. 

Many people with arthritis and other joint disorders have experienced great relief from soft tissue work. Muscle can become tight enough to pull the bones and joints out of alignment. This can cause arthritis over time. Getting that released can feel so much better. This is because it can help the bones and joints go back into proper alignment. It has also help relieve nerve pain caused by tight muscle. The nerves are embedded into the muscles. When muscle becomes tight, it squeezes on the nerves. Another way of getting arthritis is with a traumatic injury. This is when a single event can cause the joint to become misaligned and/or damaged. This can cause the muscle around the joint to lock up, to provide stability to the joint, causing a great deal of pain. Again, many people have experienced a great deal of relief from having that soft tissue released. I have even had clients tell me that they thought that they had arthritis, until they received soft tissue work.

In massage school, when we are taught to look at the muscles as a single system, we are taught to rub on tight muscles and press and trigger points and stretch soft tissue. That is the extent we are taught. We were not taught why we are doing this. This is an important piece of the puzzle. Not knowing the neurological connection won't correct anything long term and just come back. There are numerous modalities out there for finding that connection. Neurokinetic therapy is the one that I am familiar with and use. It looks for the brain connection and tells me why a muscle is tight, instead of rubbing on a tight muscle, without knowing why, and then creating instability as a result. By knowing the brain connection and why it is tight, it can help create more long term relief.

We are taught in massage school that pain and tightness coming back is normal. While that philosophy is great for business, it just simply is not true. It does not mean lifestyle factors can't bring it back, but my clients rarely see me for the same exact thing over and over. If they do, it means that something else is going on. When seeking out a therapist for pain relief, seek out someone trained to do evaluations and assessments. Skip the traditional way of rubbing out tight muscles without knowing why they are tight, unless you like pain and want more of it.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

How the Brain Plays a Role in Pain

It has now been 5 years since becoming a massage therapist.  Oh, what a journey it has been.  I took a continuing education course last year that really challenged everything that I thought that I knew.  That's what learning and stretching will do :)  I graduated massage school believing that much of our pain is soft tissue in nature.  I do also believe in energy work and the role our stressful lifestyles can play in pain and have seen pain go away with certain energy modalities such as reiki, craniosacral therapy and meridian tapping. 

So, we're taught in massage school that the same problem coming back over and over again is normal, unless you get a lot of massages within a close period of time.  As a chronic pain client myself, I went on believing that.  I always thought, "if I just get worked on more", "if I can find the perfect self care techniques that work" etc.  I was getting worked on every 2 weeks, compliant with self care, etc.  Did I get any better? Nope!  Did I get to the point of being able to spread out my appointments? Nope!  What did happen?  I actually got worse.  New pain and dysfunction patterns would show up in between sessions.  Although, because I would feel better for a period of time, I thought it was working.  That is, until problems would come back and worse than ever before, within a day or two of treatment.  I was getting scared.  I kept at it, because I didn't know what else to do instead.  Around this time, I took a continuing education class called "neurokinetic therapy".  This challenged everything that I thought that I knew as a therapist and as a chronic pain client.  With neurokinetic therapy, we use muscle testing to test what is called the "motor control center" of the brain, to see if the brain recognizes whether or not the muscle is functioning.  Think non functioning muscles can't happen to you?  Think again!  I can muscle test anyone and find dysfunction.  Everyone has compensation patterns.  Anyway, with neurokinetic therapy, we don't work on the non functioning muscle.  This can make things much worse for you down the road like it did me.  We look for what is compensating for the non functioning muscle, to get it functioning again.  This not only finally got me feeling better long term, but my pain and dysfunction patterns are gone.  If I get a regular massage, they come back, then my neurokinetic therapist has to fix it.  If one of my clients uses a massage tool on themselves or gets a traditional deep tissue therapeutic massage, I will usually end up with an emergency phone call to fix it.  This has truly transformed my life as a therapist and as a chronic pain client.  It finds the brain connection.  I have personally stopped offering traditional deep tissue therapeutic massage over safety concerns.  It has been my pleasure to feel better, be able to do physically challenging things I didn't think I would ever be able to do and to watch my clients get long term results, who used to hit the same road blocks that I did.

Here's the kicker.  Many people believe they are getting better with the traditional way.  I honestly thought I was and so did my clients.  We had to experience the neurokinetic therapy difference, in order to realize just how big of a difference there really is. 

To find a neurokinetic therapy practitioner near you, go to: www.neurokinetictherapy.com
The website gives names and e-mail addresses, but doesn't tell you if the person is a PT, LMT, personal trainer, chiropractor, etc.  If it matters to you what they are, then be sure to ask when seeking out their services.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Different Approach to Scoliosis

There are two types of scoliosis. Functional scoliosis is the most common. That is when tight soft tissues give the appearance of a spinal curvature. This is the most common and is 100% correctable. There is also structural scoliosis. Structural scoliosis is when the length of each leg bone is different on each side. This type of scoliosis is rare.

My husband was diagnosed with scoliosis as a baby. He walked around with a lift in one shoe for most of his life. When he was a baby, the doctor pulled one leg down to meet the other leg and told his parents he would grow out of it. If his legs were a different length, the doctor would not have been able to get his legs to meet. However, he did not grow out of the pattern on his own. He was told that getting surgery to put in a metal rod was his only option. He did not choose that option.

Flash forward to when he was in his late 30's. I did some manual therapy on the muscles that affect uneven hips, since it was catching up with him and causing side pain. It did straighten out his spine and corrected his leg length difference.

Flash forward a few years later. His spine stays straight, but the pain is not any better. By this time, I learned a new evaluative tool called, "Neurokinetic Therapy". Neurokinetic therapy is muscle testing that tests what your brain knows your muscles are doing. Neurokinetic therapy evaluation showed muscle tightness consistent with spinal curvature. Bingo! His brain still thinks that he is walking around with scoliosis. His brain does not know that his spine is straight and has been for quite some time. This is the only therapy I have used on him that has given him any pain relief. I will continue to work with him on retraining his brain so that he can remain pain free.

If you have or suspect that you have scoliosis, get proper assessment from a highly skilled manual therapist, before considering anything more invasive. Surgery is only a good idea for those who really need it.  Also, walking around with a lift in one shoe helps structural scoliosis. Walking around with a life in one shoe makes functional scoliosis worse, because the tight soft tissue has to continue to adapt.