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!
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. 😉
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/
Most massage training teaches budding therapists that they can’t massage someone who’s had cancer until they’ve had the five year all clear. I started my massage training in Edinburgh, two months after my dad died of lung cancer, and at the time I thought (and worried) about what I’d say if someone with cancer came to me for a massage – as at that time I’d have had to say it wasn’t possible due to my lack of training (and therefore insurance). It turned out that I never had to have that conversation but since my oncology massage training with Iris Cancer Partnership in Edinburgh I’ve met those who have been on the receiving end of that conversation due to their cancer diagnosis. And some of these frustrating stories were at five-star hotels – they went to the hotel as a treat but left there feeling far from being treated.
In Scotland, every day 90 people are told that they have cancer (source: Macmillan.org.uk) so that’s a lot of people potentially feeling disappointed. However when I did my training with Iris I understood why training is important. The effects of cancer are physical and emotional and as a massage therapist it’s important that you massage safely and the client receives the treatment best suited to them. For example, if certain lymph nodes have been tested/removed they are at risk of lymphoedema so the massage treatment needs to be adapted accordingly. Or they might be receiving chemotherapy and experiencing side effects such as fatigue, which you don’t want to exacerbate.
So what’s the answer? Already massage training covers a lot (anatomy, physiology, pathology and more) but why not make space to include education about massaging someone with a cancer diagnosis, in the same way that, for example, pregnancy massage is included in our first training? You can go on to do courses which specialise in pregnancy massage, but we’re taught in our initial training how to safely massage someone who is pregnant. I’d like oncology massage training to be treated the same way so that someone isn’t turned away from getting a massage at the very time they need it.
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 – 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.
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.
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.