How we come to feel and experience pain
In Part 1 we touched on the necessity of pain and how it is essential to our survival – our own alarm system which lets us know we have been hurt somewhere on our body.
We all know when we experience pain it is an unpleasant experience but did you know it is also a sensory and emotional experience.
Pain is an unpleasant experience, even more so when it becomes persistent.
You may not like experiencing pain but the reality is pain’s a normal part of life and is essential to our survival. Pain occurs when the brain perceives damage or there is a threat of damage to the body and it wants action.
Our school children are now into full swing of term. As parents, caregivers and teachers we need to be cautious and continually monitoring our children's school bag. Primary school aged children are at risk the most and by carrying a heavy load it becomes detrimental to their health and their growing bodies.
Majority of school bags will contain a lunch box, water bottle, textbook/books, portable devices, maybe some sports gear it all starts to add up, so it comes as no surprise school bags can reach OVERLOAD quite quickly.
Why so important?
If the school bag is heavier than 20-30% of the child there is increased stress on growing muscles and spinal ligaments (which are not fully developed until 16 years old). If your child has to hunch over then this position reduces their lung volume - resulting in less air, shallow breathing and ultimately adoption of poor breathing mechanics.
What is ideal?
The “ideal load” is suggested within the range of 10-15% of child's body weight. For example a 20.1 kilograms (kg) child should carry no more than 2 kgs and a 42 kg child no more than 4.2kg.
What to look for?
Red shoulders from the shoulder straps
Complaints - 'my neck hurts', 'my back hurts'.
Walking hunched over, looking up placing strain on the neck. Headaches.
How to manage it?
Evaluate your child's pack
“You are you that is truer than true” - Dr Seuss.... which can be interpreted as staying true to your body and what fits you.
I recently visited an accountants firm in Palmerston North - mainly to check up on my younger brother and to see what a junior accountant’s desk set up might look like. It was so well received that the whole office got a ‘desk audit’.
Typically office furniture is the last thing to put costs too, but it is so important. As let’s face it potentially 99% of your daily business can be conducted in that very set up - all day, every day. Poorly designed workspaces can be especially stressful to your upper neck and shoulder regions caused by hunching, forward neck posture, strain on eyes and arms.
Massage can certainly relax you, but did you know massage therapy can do more than that.
Here are 3 good reasons why regular massage is good for the mind and body and why you should book an appointment...
1. Lessens Anxiety and Depression = Less Stress!
Stress is a fact of life but being stressed out is not. Regular massage into your working week helps you to keep stress levels in check – be it from work deadlines, extremely busy schedules, exams or personal circumstances.
Stress from sitting all day often manifests in the shoulders and neck. Be aware that long term postural stress can start appearing as low back pain and into your gluteal muscles. Massage can counteract all the sitting that you do as it works on your body’s nervous system by decreasing the feelings of bodily tension and tightness, at the same time increasing the feel-good hormones serotonin and oxytocin.
Clients often report a sense of clarity and perspective, and they are impressed by how massage not only improving their ability to move better but also gives them a restful sleep.
2. As part of your fitness routine
There is nothing quite like the feeling you get after a good deep tissue massage, and elite athletes would think of this as unmissable and crucial to their training programme. Whether you are training hard at Olympic level, are a regular gym goer or an office worker, everyone is likely to experience discomfort or tight muscular pain at some point. Massage keeps your muscles supple allowing you to move better. It is a great preventative for injury and can also prevent the onset of fatigue especially if you are undertaking a high volume of training with little rest. Add in the feel-good benefits and you have yourself a recipe for a successful performance.
3. Treating Pain
If you have headaches, discomfort through arthritis, or an injury, massage therapy can help. Massage is a drug free, non-invasive treatment. Massage can be very helpful in alleviating pain and discomfort by increasing blood flow and circulation to the area providing the tissues with much needed nutrition, aiding in your recovery. Massage has been shown to be just as successful as other treatments with lower back pain.
Massage can help relax and decrease stress, be incorporated into your fitness routine for better performance or used as drug free pain relief improving your well-being and ultimately that goal for better quality of life.
Proof you have pushed yourself
Can’t hold your arm up high enough to brush your teeth? Getting up off the couch and taking that first step a bit ‘ouchy’? Chances are you’ve pushed yourself a bit further than your body is accustomed to and you’re in a lot of pain, so congratulations on your workout and we wish you the best of luck walking down the stairs for the rest of the week!!
What is DOMS?
DOMS stands for delayed onset of muscle soreness and it’s got stealthy tactics. Essentially 6-8 hours post exercise you’ll start feeling it and it will definitely be felt when it peaks around the 48 hours mark, even more so if you’ve performed anything eccentric. "Eccentric" is when your muscle is contracting at the same time it is being lengthened. For example you walk up a steep hill and you have sore calves, or run downhill and your hammies and glutes are sore, leg day 'can't get off the toilet' or after several bouts of lowering yourself slowly under control from a pull up, you pretty much feel sore everywhere! (let's be honest).
Why does it happen?
Exercise places a large amount of stress on muscle tissue. Microscopically that stress has resulted in “micro tears” that is accompanied by inflammation (part of the healing process) which causes your pain.
Should I be worried?
Not at all. The aches and pains you are experiencing should be minor. It is a tell-tale sign your muscles are adapting, so take it as encouragement you have had a good work out!!
Will I ever be at the stage where I will not get DOMS?
Yes – if you don’t challenge your body you won't get any adaption in strength and fitness so you won't suffer any pain but you will in plenty of other ways (that's a different topic altogether). We all want to be awesome, so really the answer is No. No one is ‘immune’, it affects the weekend warriors to elite athletes. I guess this is where the "no pain, no gain" comes from in exercise (not massage by the way) - essentially the stronger you get the more inclined you are to go harder, which will result in DOMS but that’s what you want.
Is there anything that can help me? What can I do?
There is nothing proven to stomp DOMS out, but here are some #topnotchtips to help alleviate that soreness.
1. Keep it up – regular exercise will diminish that soreness as your muscles will adapt and become stronger. But there is a catch, if you challenge your muscles again or too soon you will experience DOMS.
2. Do a proper cool down – No I am serious do a proper cool down. 10 minutes max will do it, choose anything such as a light jog, or a walk and then finish with specific stretches targeting the muscles you have just used.
3. Active recovery – Do a lighter workout THE NEXT DAY, keep that bod’n’motion so to speak, and it is crucial you can talk and hold a conversation whilst you are doing this workout so that you keep it 'light'.
4. Get a sports massage. Come and see us at Top Notch, we regularly see people who are suffering from DOMS post exercise – we assist in the recovery process by reducing your pain. Massage reduces soreness when performed 2 hours post exercise (Hilbert, Sforzo, & Swensen (2002) & Ernst. E. (1998)).
1. Hilbert, J. E., Sforzo, G. A., & Swensen, T. (2002). The effects of massage on delayed onset muscle soreness. British Journal of Sports Medicine (37) 72-75. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.37.1.72
2. Ernst. E. (1998). Does post-exercise massage treatment reduce delayed onset muscle soreness? A systemic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine (32) 212-214
If you ever have experienced this sudden intense pain, you will agree getting cramp can become extremely frustrating
We see a lot of our patients coming in regarding cramping especially in the calves (which is one of the most common places) and it makes no difference whether it be our ultramarathon runners, elite triathletes, the recreational fitness fanatic, our desk jockeys, musicians or our mums to be. It can affect everyone.
What it is not proven - Debunking the Myths
Muscle cramping mythology is said to be linked to having low electrolyte concentration after exercise, becoming dehydrated or exposed to extreme weather conditions, such as hot and humid environments, but these 'theories' which are widely promulgated are only said to be anecdotal clinical observations which have never been proven.
What is proven
Accumulating evidence suggest it is has a neuromuscular basis. Firstly it is associated with how the muscle is contracted through nerve stimulation. Secondly, it is associated with how sensory receptors (muscle spindles and Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO) play a key role in controlling the muscles length and state of relaxation (muscle tone) after exercise. For example when sensory receptors are exposed to such things as faulty posture, shortened muscles, intense exercise, and exercise to fatigue; it results in ramping up these sensory receptors to increase muscle activity, this provokes a neural response similar to a contraction and causes cramp.
What attributes to cramping
High Intensity exercise
Exercising for a long duration
Performing high mechanical loads, such as Hill running
Conditions causing premature fatigue due to going too hard too fast or being unfit
Poor stretching habits and/or flexibility
Two-joint muscles such as your calves and hammies. The most commonly affected is the calves
A genetic predispostion for cramping in your family history
Muscle stretching - this is your first port of call. Slow passive stretching is the most common and effective therapy for relieving acute muscle cramps as this ideally acts on a certain sensory receptor called the GTO which works to inhibit cramp.
To lessen the affects of cramping here are some useful strategies to implement.
1. Have a good warm up, followed by a well-controlled exercise session (avoid going too hard too soon), a good cool down with stretches and adequate rest.
2. How's your fitness? Are you fit enough to perform the activity and are you giving your body enough time to adapt to your training programme?
3. Commence regular stretching - the team at Top Notch Massage and Health can show you the right stretching relaxation technique that you can perform at home during your next massage session.
Other strategies such as incorporating plyometrics or eccentric muscle training, maintaining adequate carbohydrate reserves during competition still remain speculative.
Bently. S. (1996). Exercise-Induced muscle cramp. Journal of Sports Medicine, 21(6), 409-420.
Hoffman, M.D., & Stuempfle, K.J. (2015). Muscle cramping. Journal of Sports Medicine. Unpublished.
Schwellnus. M. P. (2008). Cause of exercise associated muscle cramps (EAMC) - Altered neuromuscular control, dehydration or electrolyte depletion? British Journal of Sports Medicine, 43, 401-408. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2008.050401
A lot of people ask what is pregnancy massage and how is it different from a regular massage. The most difficult thing about this question is where we should start!
Pregnancy has many physiological and psychological changes which a women will journey through. The physical changes can cause stress and or discomfort to the mother, and massage is a wonderful way to help alleviate many of these discomforts, as well as promotes a sense of well-being.
What is pregnancy massage?
Pregnancy massage is beneficial throughout the entire nine months of the pregnancy; however, if you are having a high risk pregnancy it is best to discuss your condition with your midwife or physician before seeking a therapist. After doing so you may be able to receive massage work with a written release.
At Top Notch Massage and Health we use the side lying positioning which nicely supports your whole body. Side lying is one of the highly recommended positions to use after 22 weeks. It alleviates the compression placed on the major vessels which lying on your back will cause, resulting in decreased circulation; vital to you and your baby. We use highly recommended support bolsters to ensure maximum comfort, and you will be draped in soft fleece to keep you nice and warm in the winter, and nice cool sheets in the summer months.
All our therapists are certified in pregnancy massage which is important in not only supporting, nurturing and providing you with time out, but we also know and understand what is and what is not safe for you and your baby. Our knowledge spans across all trimesters and bodily changes you will undergo. There are many hormones which influence your ligaments during your pregnancy which bring laxity, especially around your back, hips and legs. This is where massage is key to alleviate the tension now placed on your surrounding muscles. We avoid certain areas during your pregnancy such as the area between your heal and ankle which relates to the uterus, it has been documented that deep pressure to this trigger point may cause early labour.
What to expect
Our pregnancy massage is 60 – 70 minutes. For your first visit we will ask you about how you are and how your pregnancy is developing. We will ask that you seek permission from your LMC if you do have a high risk pregnancy. We will do a quick postural analysis of how you are standing to gain a better understanding of how you go about your daily activities and advise any homework if needed! During the massage you will be supported with bolsters as you lie on your side. In the winter we drape you from top to toe with nice warm fleece blankets, or in the summer in soft cool sheets. We will only expose the area being worked. The room is heated or cooled to suit dependent on the season, and we like to play quiet and relaxing music in the background. We do encourage to avoid eating a large meal before the massage or drinking large amounts of liquids.
Benefits that a mother may experience:
· Reduces swelling in hands, feet and ankles
· Lessens sciatic pain
· Eases muscular discomforts in areas like the low back & neck, calf cramps, it also helps with
tension and tightening that can be experienced throughout the body
· Tones lose muscles relaxes tense muscles and can help increase flexibility.
· Helps with relaxation which in turn can decrease insomnia
· Increases blood and lymph flow which can help increase the elimination of toxins through the
circulatory and lymphatic systems, this can also help with fatigue.
· Increases oxygen in the blood, sometimes on up to 10-15% after a massage.
· Strengthens the immune system
· Stimulates the release of endorphins, the body's natural pain killers, into the brain and nervous
· Helps relieve anxiety or depression
· Helps increase blood circulation, which in turn delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the mother
· Can be used during the birth as well as after making both experiences easier and more comfortable
· Eases stress mothers often feel after the birth
There are many more benefits! We hope this list of how beneficial massage can be during pregnancy is useful.
Our therapists are qualified to deliver pregnancy massage therapy.