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:
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.