Thoroughly tested, these tools can help maintain your body in between sessions. Many of these are available for sale in my office, subject to availability. I do not receive any financial benefit from these companies for promoting these tools. It is recommended to get instruction from your LMT, PT, DC or Doctor before doing self massage.
Body massage ball - The best physio ball for creating more back flexibility, opening the chest and shoulders. Just the right amount of firmness, just the right size to stretch the back over or to place under your sacrum for a pelvic release. Cost: $20-30
Lacrosse ball or Knotty Body - It can be used to do cross fiber frictions in adhered areas, like the hip socket, bottom of feet, pectoralis minor and suboccipital areas. It also relieves trigger points, in particular in the trapezius and levator scapula muscles. Lacrosse balls are hard with rubber coating. Be careful when using them on the spine, for example, tied in a sock on either side of the spine. Tennis balls are great when the area is too tender or easily injured as they are significantly softer. The Knotty Body ball is in between a hard lacrosse ball and soft tennis ball. It is firm rubber with a hollow inside. Lacrosse balls and Knotty Body balls cost: $7-10
Theraband flexbar - Great for giving varied movements and therefore neuromuscular therapy to overly tight arms muscles. Many be helpful for tendonitis/tendonosis and/or carpal tunnel and other repetitive stress injuries of the lower arm and wrist. Cost: $20
Cupping set - It is best to receive instruction before cupping yourself as cupping can be harmful if not carefully applied. Yet, is an excellent way to release superficial adhesions and trigger points that keep coming back. It can be useful to purchase a set with the extension tube to help reach difficult areas. However, you may still need help placing the cups. Do not cup yourself frequently and check for contraindications. Hansol Bu-Hang is the brand I recommend for beginners. Cost: $29-45
Many people love their foam rollers and they have their place, but frankly myofascial release is the main reason people use them and they are not good at that. Instead of releasing fascia, they mostly crush it and roll right over it.
From Massage Today
By James Waslaski
Several weeks ago, after discussing my mother's "medical" condition with her surgeon, I realized how vital it is for our profession to establish the differences between medical and orthopedic massage.
My mother had a critical medical condition called a dissecting aortic aneurysm, in which she exhibited low back pain symptoms, similar to someone with a tight iliopsoas. The medical doctor expected kidney problems, but - through divine intervention - an MRI discovered the massive aneurysm near the bifurcation of the femoral arteries, and it was ready to burst. I thank God each day that she did not go to someone minimally trained in medical or orthopedic massage, because an attempt to release her iliopsoas would have ruptured the aneurysm, and she likely would have died on the massage table.
However, a year prior to discovering the aneurysm, my mother had an "orthopedic" condition called iliotibial band friction syndrome that presented as lateral right-knee pain; through the release of the gluteus maximus, the TFL, and other tight muscles around the knee, surgery was avoided, and she is pain-free one year later, thanks to proper stretching techniques.
Iliopsoas Release Technique: This can place pressure on the abdominal aorta and iliac (femoral) arteries. Orthopedic massage involves therapeutic assessment, manipulation and movement of locomotor soft tissue to reduce pain and dysfunction. Restoring structural balance throughout the body allows us to focus on both prevention and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal dysfunctions. I hope for this to be one of many articles on the differences between orthopedic and medical massage so that there is more consistency within the profession on the use of the terms. It is my strong opinion that misusing the term "medical massage" will build a wall between massage therapists and other health care professionals who spend many years studying medical conditions that are quite different from orthopedic conditions. After spending almost 20 years in a trauma center, I have seen thousands of medical and orthopedic conditions.
As massage therapists, there are several potential dilemmas we face when we claim to perform medical massage. For example:
I am concerned about organizations that claim to "certify" massage therapists in medical massage in as few as three days. Doctors - especially chiropractors - frequently ask me how a massage therapist with as little as 300-500 hours of training can become certified in assessing and treating medical conditions in one weekend. I tell them that many educators and therapists in our industry misuse the term "medical massage" because it is the current "buzz word." In other words, it sells seminars and sounds very clinical when used in practice and on business cards. But there are longer, more comprehensive massage programs out there that train students in medical settings and discuss the signs and symptoms of various medical conditions, and if you are already trained as a nurse, doctor, or in another medical specialty, you can see the big picture much more clearly.
In my opinion, orthopedic massage is much more appropriate when we are treating musculoskeletal pain conditions or sports injuries. Its objectives are to restore structural balance in the muscle groups throughout the body, and decompress arthritic or painful joints. Muscle groups shorten, due to prolonged poor posture or repetitive motions, and shortened muscle groups need to be stretched out or they will pull bones onto nerves and blood vessels, and cause or contribute to all sorts of orthopedic conditions. I believe that conditions like joint arthritis are symptoms that result from tight muscles around a joint; thus, thoracic outlet and carpal tunnel syndrome are actually orthopedic conditions.
In thoracic outlet, our goal is to lengthen short muscle groups, such as the anterior and posterior scalenes, the pectoralis minor, and any supporting muscles that compress nerves in the neck and shoulder and cause weakness and radiating pain into the arm or hand. Carpal tunnel can often be effectively treated by lengthening the pronator teres and the flexors of the wrist, and assuring the carpal bones are in alignment. Achilles tendonitis would be best addressed by lengthening the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. In my opinion, it is truly orthopedic massage when we work to restore range-of-motion, balance out muscle groups surrounding the joints to treat pain, and work to prevent and rehabilitate injuries that involve muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments. Orthopedic massage is also great for performance enhancement.
However, medical conditions can mask and/or complicate orthopedic conditions. For example, a woman in her third trimester of pregnancy may have excessive swelling in her wrists, adding to the tight muscles and tendons in the wrist area requiring medical assistance, perhaps also requiring the use of a diuretic (if not contraindicated) or lymphatic drainage to reduce inflammation. There are functional assessment tests that can determine most orthopedic conditions and outline a treatment plan using multiple modalities. These assessment skills better align you with other orthopedic experts, including orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, physical therapists and osteopaths.
I also believe that combining multiple disciplines allows better results. One patient may respond better to CranioSacral Therapy, while another requires lymphatic drainage, and the next needs a combination of myofascial release, neuromuscular therapy and stretching. (I will touch more on a multidisciplinary approach in a future article.) Lastly, patients need to be actively involved in their own treatment by perhaps changing the ergonomics of the work environment, watching their posture, using good body mechanics, and doing specific stretches and exercises between treatments.
I would briefly like to address one other concern about the current state of the massage profession. I came from Florida and trained with many of the leaders in our industry. I also took college courses in pathology, biomechanics, anatomy and physiology, then took years of workshops to prevent "tunnel vision" into any one discipline from occurring. In Florida, the base training starts at 500-600 hours and becomes more advanced.
In Texas (where I now live), a person can be a practicing and certified massage therapist with 300 hours. I recently attended a great insurance billing seminar here in Texas; what frustrated me, however, was that many of the attendees had only 300 hours of training. Even if these therapists learned to use the insurance billing codes properly, it is unlikely that after only 300 hours of training, they could ethically support their treatment and billing claims without additional training. I also see claims to "certify" these therapists in medical massage without administering a written and practical exam. No wonder the medical community looks down on us!
I hope I have put a bit of fear into massage therapists that may still have a long way to go to understand that all medical conditions do not fall under plain and simple treatment protocols learned in a basic medical massage training program. As a profession, I suggest we work to distinguish medical conditions from orthopedic conditions to better align ourselves with other medical experts.
I look forward to seeing how the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork defines an advanced-level therapist, once it moves to a higher level of certification, and is confident that the process includes a large panel of experts in role delineation and item-writing processes. I also hope that more schools and educators can agree on whether we should call our work clinical massage, orthopedic massage or simply an all-inclusive term like medical massage.
Sometimes you need a little extra help when you have pain and want to treat yourself at home. Topicals can help safely relieve local pain temporarily, reduce inflammation and even reduce soreness on an area that received a lot of work out or deep massage. Topicals are particularly helpful for muscle strains, arthritis and repetitive stress injuries. Fortunately they also usually have no side effects, unlikely systemic oral pain meds.
Over the years, I have tried many topicals. Here are my favorites. Remember everyone is different so its worth trying a different one if your body and particular issue at this time is not responding to the first topical treatment you try.
Bruce Y. Lee, Forbes
One of my college classmates once decided that to focus on his studies he didn't have time to exercise. So he would sprint everywhere he went at full speed. To the bathroom. To dinner. To class. To the library. To dates (which wasn't often).
Would such several-minute bursts be the same as spending dedicated time to regular exercise? Possibly, if you are worried about death, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Yes, based on a study conducted by researchers from the National Cancer Institute (Pedro F. Saint‐Maurice, Richard P. Troiano, and Charles E. Matthews) and Duke University (William E. Kraus), the life-extending benefits of physical activity may add up, regardless of whether you do it in one concentrated session or short bursts throughout the day. The study runs over the conventional wisdom (sort of like how my classmate occasionally did to other people) that you've got to get your heart rate up for at least ten minutes for exercise to be of benefit. It also may be another reason to run to the toilet.
The study analyzed data from 4,840 adults from the U.S. who were 40 years and older and participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHNES). As part of this survey, the adults wore on their waists for up to a week devices called accelerometers, which could track their movements and thus get a sense of when and how long they were exercising. This way the researchers could figure out how much moderate-to-vigorous physical activity that they were getting each day. The American Heart Association gives the following examples of moderate physical activity:
The researchers used the following measures of the amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity that each adult got each day: total number of minutes, the number of bouts or bursts that were at least 5‐minutes long, and the number of bursts or bouts that were at least 10 minutes long. They also reviewed available death records through 2011. During the follow‐up period of about 6.6 years, 700 deaths had occurred.
With all of this information, the researchers could determine whether there was any association between the total amount of physical activity and death and whether this association was different when you only counted bouts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity that was greater than 5 minutes or 10 minutes in duration.
Indeed the study did find a correlation between getting more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and a lower likelihood of death. Compared to people who got little to no regular physical activity, those who got at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day were about a third less likely to have died. Those who got 60 to 99 minutes a day were about half as likely to have died. And those who got 100 or more minutes a day were about three-quarters less likely to have died. These correlations seemed to hold regardless of whether the study participants had gotten their physical activity in short bursts throughout the day or in concentrated sessions that were at least 5 or 10 minutes in duration.
Of course, remember that this study just shows associations and does not necessarily prove cause-and-effect. Such a study can't show everything that was going on in the study participants' lives. Those who had less physical activity could also have had other behaviors and life circumstances that increased their risk of death such as living in higher crime neighborhoods, working in very stressful or dangerous jobs, having fewer friends and less of a support network, eating less healthy food, having less access to health care, and suffering from poorer health in general. The challenge is that physical activity and these other circumstances form a complex system that then, in turn, affect the likelihood of death.
Nonetheless, we already know from many other studies that regular physical activity is good for your health and can help prevent and control numerous potentially life-threatening or life-shortening conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. People have labeled sitting as the new smoking and not the new asparagus. Very few people will say that they need to stop getting so much physical activity and sit on their butts more.
However, getting exercise may seem daunting when you have to carve out a block of time each day and go through a series of steps such as traveling to the gym, changing into your tights and "No Guts, No Glory" T-shirt, and doing a repetitive activity (e.g., running on a treadmill) that you wouldn't otherwise do. Even the term "work out" sounds like having an additional job.
You don't need a beach or a class to do many exercise movements. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Instead, as this study suggests, you could integrate short bursts of physical activity into your regular activities and still get many of the benefits. Here are some examples:
Many clients arrive at my office in a slightly or more than slightly stressed state. This state in brainwave terms is called Beta. Beta allows you to adapt to and function in the modern world. However, when you spend very little time outside of Beta, it can lead to over the long term stress sensitivity, emotional issues, premature aging, illness, insomnia, hormonal imbalance, and increased likelihood of chronic pain.
These are your different kinds of brain waves:
Massage is proven in studies to help move you into deeper states of consciousness. How deep depends on where the client is starting from, what type of bodywork, how its delivered, and the consciousness state of the therapist. While it may not be easy to go from Beta to Delta in an hour, even getting to Alpha or some Theta is very healing for the nervous system and the whole body. During waking life, these states are rarer and rarer these days with so much stimulation, demands and fast paced lifestyles.
I do relaxation sessions, called Restorative Bodywork, in a very slow and meditative fashion to maximize your time in Theta if possible. The slowness of the massage strokes, acupressure and craniosacral unwinding in particular facilitate more Alpha and Theta, occasionally Delta. I use a calming atmosphere, voice, and theta inducing music to help you go even deeper.
How can you get to deeper states of consciousness on your own?
Most of my clients feel significant relief fairly quickly. But as the cases I take on get more and more challenging, a greater portion of these cases have confounding factors that impede recover or even cause the pain directly. It's helpful to explore differential diagnosis if your pain isn't responding to bodywork by a skilled practitioner. If your pain is not improving, it's best to see a doctor, naturopath, or chiropractor and rule out contributing causes. Please do not diagnose and treat yourself based on this or any other article. Here are some common conditions associated with muscle, joint and fascia pain.
Clients who come in for issues besides foot pain, are often unaware of the issues in their feet which may be causing problems up the chain of joints.
Here are some common issues with feet caused by poor shoes:
Foot bones that are all glued together, usually in a suboptimal position.
Issues caused by poor shoes and unhealthy feet:
Things to look for in "minimalist" or "barefoot" shoes, unless you already have major issues with your feet that are being addressed by podiatrist:
Consider getting your lower legs, feet and ankles released and realigned to have more functional foundation for your whole body.
Two recent studies came out that caught my attention with regards to the importance of mobility. One study came to the conclusion that half of cancers are preventable and lack of exercise/obesity is a major contributor. Another made the connection between mobility and longevity. Those that could easily go from sitting on the floor to standing were living much longer and healthier lives.
These results underscore how much health and life is lost by simply not moving. In a way, when you don't exercise you are making an unconscious decision to live a shorter life with more discomfort and possibly an arduous and expensive journey fighting illnesses like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
So considering making a better relationship with your body your New Year's resolution. Below are some ways to help you be more mobile and healthy in 2018. Pick one first and commit to that. Too many goals will leave you lost at sea. If you need help, check out this article on how to keep your resolution.
By Rosie Spinks
November 9, 2017
Sentences that start with the phrase “A guru once told me…” are, more often than not, eye-roll-inducing. But recently, while resting in malasana, or a deep squat, in an East London yoga class, I was struck by the second half of the instructor’s sentence: “A guru once told me that the problem with the West is they don’t squat.”
This is plainly true. In much of the developed world, resting is synonymous with sitting. We sit in desk chairs, eat from dining chairs, commute seated in cars or on trains, and then come home to watch Netflix from comfy couches. With brief respites for walking from one chair to another, or short intervals for frenzied exercise, we spend our days mostly sitting. This devotion to placing our backsides in chairs makes us an outlier, both globally and historically. In the past half century, epidemiologists have been forced to shift how they study movement patterns. In modern times, the sheer amount of sitting we do is a separate problem from the amount of exercise we get.
Our failure to squat has biomechanical and physiological implications, but it also points to something bigger. In a world where we spend so much time in our heads, in the cloud, on our phones, the absence of squatting leaves us bereft of the grounding force that the posture has provided since our hominid ancestors first got up off the floor. In other words: If what we want is to be well, it might be time for us to get low.
To be clear, squatting isn’t just an artifact of our evolutionary history. A large swath of the planet’s population still does it on a daily basis, whether to rest, to pray, to cook, to share a meal, or to use the toilet. (Squat-style toilets are the norm in Asia, and pit latrines in rural areas all over the world require squatting.) As they learn to walk, toddlers from New Jersey to Papua New Guinea squat—and stand up from a squat—with grace and ease. In countries where hospitals are not widespread, squatting is also a position associated with that most fundamental part of life: birth.
It’s not specifically the West that no longer squats; it’s the rich and middle classes all over the world. My Quartz colleague, Akshat Rathi, originally from India, remarked that the guru’s observation would be “as true among the rich in Indian cities as it is in the West.”
But in Western countries, entire populations—rich and poor—have abandoned the posture. On the whole, squatting is seen as an undignified and uncomfortable posture—one we avoid entirely. At best, we might undertake it during Crossfit, pilates or while lifting at the gym, but only partially and often with weights (a repetitive maneuver that’s hard to imagine being useful 2.5 million years ago). This ignores the fact that deep squatting as a form of active rest is built in to both our evolutionary and developmental past: It’s not that you can’t comfortably sit in a deep squat, it’s just that you’ve forgotten how.
“The game started with squatting,” says author and osteopath Phillip Beach. Beach is known for pioneering the idea of “archetypal postures.” These positions—which, in addition to a deep passive squat with the feet flat on the floor, include sitting cross legged and kneeling on one’s knees and heels—are not just good for us, but “deeply embedded into the way our bodies are built.”
“You really don’t understand human bodies until you realize how important these postures are,” Beach, who is based in Wellington, New Zealand, tells me. “Here in New Zealand, it’s cold and wet and muddy. Without modern trousers, I wouldn’t want to put my backside in the cold wet mud, so [in absence of a chair] I would spend a lot of time squatting. The same thing with going to the toilet. The whole way your physiology is built is around these postures.”
In much of the world, squatting is as normal a part of life as sitting in a chair.So why is squatting so good for us? And why did so many of us stop doing it? It comes down to a simple matter of “use it or lose it,” says Dr. Bahram Jam, a physical therapist and founder of the Advanced Physical Therapy Education Institute (APTEI) in Ontario, Canada.
“Every joint in our body has synovial fluid in it. This is the oil in our body that provides nutrition to the cartilage,” Jam says. “Two things are required to produce that fluid: movement and compression. So if a joint doesn’t go through its full range—if the hips and knees never go past 90 degrees—the body says ‘I’m not being used’ and starts to degenerate and stops the production of synovial fluid.”
A healthy musculoskeletal system doesn’t just make us feel lithe and juicy, it also has implications for our wider health. A 2014 study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that test subjects who showed difficulty getting up off the floor without support of hands, or an elbow, or leg (what’s called the “sitting-rising test”) resulted in a three-year-shorter life expectancy than subjects who got up with ease.
In the West, the reason people stopped squatting regularly has a lot to do with our toilet design. Holes in the ground, outhouses and chamber pots all required the squat position, and studies show that greater hip flexion in this pose is correlated with less strain when relieving oneself. Seated toilets are by no means a British invention—the first simple toilets date back to Mesopotamia in the fourth millennium B.C., while the ancient Minoans on the island of Crete are said to have first pioneered the flush—but they were first adopted in Britain by the Tudors, who enlisted “grooms of the stool” to help them relieve themselves in ornate, throne-like loos in the 16th century.
The next couple hundred years saw slow, uneven toilet innovation, but in 1775 a watchmaker named Alexander Cummings developed an S-shape pipe which sat below a raised cistern, a crucial development. It wasn’t until after the mid-to-late-1800s, when London finally built a functioning sewer system after persistent cholera outbreaks and the horrific-sounding “great stink” of 1858, that fully flushable, seated toilets started to commonly appear in people’s homes.
Today, the flushable squat-style toilets found across Asia are, of course, no less sanitary than Western counterparts. But Jam says Europe’s shift to the seated throne design robbed most Westerners of the need (and therefore the daily practice) of squatting. Indeed the realization that squatting leads to better bowel movements has fueled the cult-like popularity of the Lillipad and the Squatty Potty, raised platforms that turn a Western-style toilet into a squatting one—and allow the user to sit in a flexed position that mimics a squat.
“The reason squatting is so uncomfortable because we don’t do it,” Jam says. “But if you go to the restroom once or twice a day for a bowel movement and five times a day for bladder function, that’s five or six times a day you’ve squatted.”
While this physical discomfort may be the main reason we don’t squat more, the West’s aversion to the squat is cultural, too. While squatting or sitting cross legged in an office chair would be great for the hip joint, the modern worker’s wardrobe—not to mention formal office etiquette—generally makes this kind of posture unfeasible. The only time we might expect a Western leader or elected official to hover close to the ground is for a photo-op with cute kindergarteners. Indeed, the people we see squatting on the sidewalk in a city like New York or London tend to be the types of people we blow past in self-important rush.
“It’s considered primitive and of low social status to squat somewhere,” says Jam. “When we think of squatting we think of a peasant in India, or an African village tribesman, or an unhygienic city floor. We think we’ve evolved past that—but really we’ve devolved away from it.”
Avni Trivedi, a doula and osteopath based in London (disclosure: I have visited her in the past for my own sitting-induced aches) says the same is true of squatting as a birthing position, which is still prominent in many developing parts of the world and is increasingly advocated by holistic birthing movements in the West.
“In a squatting birthing position, the muscles relax and you’re allowing the sacrum to have free movement so the baby can push down, with gravity playing a role too,” Trivedi says. “But the perception that this position was primitive is why women went from this active position to being on the bed, where they are less embodied and have less agency in the birthing process.”
Children in the West squat with ease. Why can’t their parents?So should we replace sitting with squatting and say goodbye to our office chairs forever? Beach points out that “any posture held for too long causes problems” and there are studies to suggest that populations that spend excessive time in a deep squat (hours per day), do have a higher incidence of knee and osteoarthritis issues.
But for those of us who have largely abandoned squatting, Beach says, “you can’t really overdo this stuff.” Beyond this kind of movement improving our joint health and flexibility, Trivedi points out that a growing interest in yoga worldwide is perhaps in part a recognition that “being on the ground helps you physically be grounded in yourself”—something that’s largely missing from our screen-dominated, hyper-intellectualized lives.
Beach agrees that this is not a trend, but an evolutionary impulse. Modern wellness movements are starting to acknowledge that “floor life” is key. He argues that the physical act of grounding ourselves has been nothing short of instrumental to our species’ becoming.
In a sense, squatting is where humans—every single one of us—came from, so it behooves us to revisit it as often as we can.
Read the full article by Dr. Axe here.
Here's the article summary: "Bulging Disc Takeaways"