A (running) step too far!

One of the first questions I’ll ask a client who’s presenting muscular pain is, ‘Have you done anything differently recently that might have caused it?’

So when I started getting a sharp pain down the back of my right thigh it didn’t take me long to work out why. I’d recently increased the length (by five minutes) and regularity (from one to two/three times a week) of my run. The increase hadn’t been a chore. I have Arthur’s Seat on my doorstep with wonderful views of the coastline and across Edinburgh. Yet, I hadn’t experienced this kind of pain in my leg before. I’ve had clients who have. In those cases it was piriformis syndrome, the sharp pain caused by the piriformis muscle pressing against the sciatic nerve.

So I made an appointment with my massage therapist. In the session she focussed on the hamstring muscles and it did the trick as I’ve only had the odd twinge since. However I know that I need to take care so it doesn’t flare up again. I’d previously managed on a minimal warm up / cool down routine and my new run clearly was a step too far. Now I’m doing more although the time spent on the cool down varies!

Part of my running route around Arthurs Seat

My experience made me think about what cardio exercise I’d do if I couldn’t run. I love being outside, seeing the different seasons come and go across Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Park and beyond. I know how important it is to have a varied fitness routine so it’s not just the same muscles getting the work out. During my run I try to include some side stepping so that those neglected leg and hip muscles also get a work out (I don’t manage this every time as I feel slightly self-conscious doing it!). The other fitness I like doing is boxing at Holyrood Boxing Gym, which is a great work out, but I can’t go as often as I’d like. I realise that I need to look after my legs!

There is much talk about the benefit of massage for runners. Some claims (that it can flush out toxins and lactic acid) remain unfounded, however research backs claims that it breaks down adhesions between muscle and fascia, which restricts muscle movement, and reduces DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). It’s definitely helped me by relieving the pain that would have stopped me running.

I’ve got a feeling my running routine may change again now that the colder months are upon us. ūüėČ

Body art!


I don’t have any tattoos but if I was going to get one (this is highly unlikely!) I think it’d have to be something with an anatomical theme. As someone who is fascinated in anatomy it would make sense to wear my heart on my sleeve (or shoulder or ankle…)!

I came to this decision after seeing this beautiful image by Diana Eastman (top image). I love the fine detail. But I quickly discovered that it’s not a tattoo after all. It’s a drawing from Grey’s Anatomy which Eastman (she’s a photographer) photoshopped an image of on to her back. Pretty nifty work eh?

Around the same time I came across Danny Quirk’s anatomical paintings. They have a more contemporary, darker,¬†edge than Eastman’s Grey’s Anatomy. Check out Quirk’s Facebook page – Danny Quirk Artwork – for examples of his art, as well as clips¬†of him doing his unique body painting.¬† Also go to http://www.medinart.eu/works/danny-quirk/


Image by Danny Quirk Artwork



Budding massage therapists should be taught how to massage someone with cancer

Breathing is good for you!

Hilary Clinton revealed that she used ‘alternate nostril breathing’ (Nadi Shodhana in Sanskrit)¬†to help her deal with the stress of losing the US Presidential campaign.

As a massage therapist I see how stress negatively affects our breathing and in turn how this can impact upon us physically.

If someone is dealing with stress, the chances are they are breathing more quickly, which means¬†the muscles involved in the action¬†are being over worked.¬†The scalene muscles ‚Äď coming from the side of the neck, attaching on to the upper ribs¬†– suffer at times like this, becoming tighter.

In their tightened state they may press against the brachial plexus, which is a¬†network of nerves traveling from the spinal cord down¬†the arm. If¬†it is¬†impinged¬†by a tight scalene¬†it¬†can cause neck or¬†shoulder pain¬†and¬†it may cause¬†numbness/tingling in the hand. If¬†you’re experiencing the¬†latter, you may¬†worry you¬†have carpal tunnel syndrome.

Deep tissue massage can help muscle tension Claire Hay Massage therapist Edinburgh

It can be surprising for some to discover¬†that¬†the pain they’ve been¬†feeling is caused by¬†a pesky¬†tight muscle in their neck. And what a relief to find out that massage can help!

It’s great¬†to see this relief on a client’s face at the end of the session when the pain has eased.¬†But¬†usually there’s more work to be done if the goal is to be¬†long-term pain free. The stressor (s) needs to be identified/addressed otherwise the problem¬†will¬†probably come back.¬†If the pain has been going on for some time it’s unlikely one massage will fix it, so¬†the client might need more treatments.¬†I often recommend stretches to do at home (perfect after a massage so¬†the improved range of movement can be fully appreciated) or articles¬†on breathing techniques.

Massage can relieve muscle tension

So¬†which¬†breathing technique¬†should you choose? You can follow Hilary’s¬†example¬†with the ‘alternate nostril breathing’ or try¬†something else¬†such as the abdominal breathing technique or¬†Sama Vitti (‘equal breathing’). It’s all about finding the one that works for you.

(Nadi Shodhana Pranayama in Sanskrit)
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