Massage Methodologies 101

What flavor massage would treat you best? Like a smorgasbord full of delectable treats, it can be a bit confusing for people with all of the different massage techniques advertised to select the proper bodywork provider for their particular needs. Some clients seek nothing but 60-90 minutes of utter relaxation, while most want a combination of that and therapeutic methods to help with ailments causing discomfort.

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Challenging this Massage Therapist’s Mind

Off-season in resort towns such as ours is a time for locals to slow down, regenerate and do things we otherwise can’t find time for in our increasingly boisterous fast-paced community. This fall I never slowed down, but I did find the time to combine a bit of travel with interesting continuing education courses in bodywork modalities new to me. Colorado doesn’t require Licensed Massage Therapists to acquire education credits annually, but it’s something that I find invaluable, and pursue regularly regardless. Adding to the toolbox, stimulating the brain, and refreshing one’s practice can only be a good thing, for practitioner and client alike!

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Sciatica Syndrome and Massage

Perhaps due to extreme summer sports, long hours sitting, or the average age cohort of my clients, I have had a wave of massage clients this summer experiencing sciatica-type symptoms, which can be alarming and unbearable. Sciatica is not a condition, but a symptom of another issue; it’s the name of the pain caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve.

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Musculature of Skiing

Skiing is a total body workout, and can leave one feeling tight all over, as it requires efficient, coordinated, balanced movement, employing consistent musculoskeletal strength.

The sport puts incredible stress on the joints; the tighter our muscles get from exertion, the more tension is put on tendons surrounding and attaching to joints, causing complaints of sore hips, lower back, knees, ankles, feet, even shoulders.

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The Rotator Cuff Is Not A Muscle

The rotator cuff is not a muscle. Clients often complain of pain or surgery on their rotator cuff, yet they do not know which muscle is affected. The rotator cuff is a mechanism controlling the stability and motion of the shoulder joint, made up of four distinct, independent muscles, which can be considered the shoulder’s core muscles.

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Biomechanics of Early Parenthood

The delight of a new baby! A love deep enough to sustain humanity cultivates during the first few days, weeks, and months of togetherness. Before the body has started to recover from pregnancy and childbirth, new mothers are launched into a series of novel repetitive activities that will cumulatively build up, causing predictable patterns of long-term wear and tear in musculature. It’s a busy and challenging time; just having a shower can seem miraculous with all of the new demands. It’s no surprise that self-care falls to the backburner. Through recognizing repetitive actions that leave parents with chronic pain, and how to better approach them, some discomfort can be mitigated.

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Musculature of Skiing, and Soothing Skier Massage

Spend a few days skiing hard on the mountain, and you will agree; it’s is a total body workout, and can leave you feeling tight all over, and in need of an effective, relieving post-ski massage.  Skiing requires efficient, coordinated, balanced movement, blending skeletal and muscular strength.  The sport puts incredible stress on the joints; the tighter our muscles get from exertion, the more tension is put on tendons surrounding and attaching to joints, causing complaints of sore hips, lower back, knees, ankles, even shoulders.  

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Let it Flow!

What does the San Miguel River and a healthy human body have in common? As a former environmental educator with a passion in natural sciences, and a current massage therapist with enthusiasm for making peoples’ bodies feel better, I often contemplate the similarities between ecological systems and human physiology. 

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Tips for Taught Travelers

Whether traveling to Telluride by car or plane, it is a difficult destination to reach, and you might find that by the time you arrive, you are all tied-up with tension upon arrival, before even enjoying the wonderful sports our region offers. While traveling, be sure to take breaks and stretch. Pay special attention to the calves, lower back, shoulders and neck when you find yourself stuck in the cramped sitting position for extended periods of time.

Drivers will especially benefit from the pectoral opener described in this Wellness section. Stretch your neck regularly while traveling, rotating gently left and right, as well as ear to shoulder in both directions (Not shoulder to ear!). Roll your shoulders back and focus on keeping your shoulder blades back and low down your spine, to release tension from the upper trapezius. Try to sit in an upright position when possible, with shoulders and hips aligned, vertebrae vertically stacked, and your weight in your seat being directed vertically downward, to the point of your pelvic floor just in front of your "sit" bones, which alleviates unnecessary pressure and misalignment of the sacral area, which can cause lower back pain. Remember to breath deeply from time to time and focus the breath into areas of tension. 

 

Knotty Muscles!

One of the most frequently asked questions on my massage table is, “What are those knots back there, anyway?”,  referring to the clumpy masses of painful muscle tissue, so often found in the neck and shoulder area. It’s a good question; as “knots” are a common source of discomfort, and if left untreated, can cause generalized physical agony.

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IT Band Relief

Many of our athletic activities, such as skiing, running, and cycling, leave people with extremely tight and sensitive IT bands.  In my practice I have noted a remarkable difference in the IT bands of clients who roll them out regularly on a foam roller at home.  Active men, especially, seem to suffer from tight IT bands.  It is worth putting some time into releasing these taut bands of dense collagen-rich muscle fiber, as they attach to region of the hip joint, and if left tight for the long term, can pull the hips out of proper alignment, causing uneven wear and tear on the hip joint. Use a foam roller and lie sideways upon it on the floor, allowing it to make contact with your IT band between knee and hip on your lower leg... this can be very painful to start; the other (upper) leg should be bent, with its foot on the floor, used as a weight bearing device to alleviate some of the pressure of your lower leg's IT band on the roller.  Start with just a small percentage of your total weight. Balance your lower IT band on the roller, carefully using your arms and upper bent leg to stabilize and support you, while you gently roll your IT band upon the foam roller, from above the lateral edge of the knee, up the lateral thigh to the hip. I have heard that using a rolling pin, without bearing weight, is a gentler way to start out for the first few times. Properly loosening muscles associated with the hip joint will help avoid hip surgery down the line. (Note: The IT band is just one of many that can pull the hips out of alignment)

 

Everyday Relaxing Pectoral Opener

Opening these chest muscles will allow for better posture, as they are common culprits in holding the shoulders forward, causing the overstretching of the rhomboids between the shoulder blades, which is where the poor-posture-pain is usually felt.

Using a foam roller of about 6” in diameter and 30” long, place the foam roller (or a long narrow cushion, or even tightly rolled blanket) on the floor and lay on it, with your spine contacting and resting upon the length of the roller. Your head should not drop off the end of the roller, but also rest upon it comfortably. Put your arms out perpendicular to the roller (and spine) and let them rest, falling aside to the floor.  You will feel a nice stretch in the pecs, opening them up gently. Hold as long as you can, a minimum of a few minutes, breathing deeply. During the first minute of the stretch, the elastin fibers of your muscle tissue will release, but the longer you hold the posture, as with any yoga move, the more you will get the collagen fibers (the more dense connective tissue that makes up tendons, ligaments and fascia) to lengthen; which is said to be attained in about 3 minutes.