The Deep Tissue Confession

I have a confession to make…

I have been a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) since October 2014, so for about a year and half now. Before that, I spent six months cramming as much clinically relevant musculoskeletal information into my brain as possible as I prepared to take the licensing board exams. And before that, I spent 2-years attending the West Cost College of Massage Therapy in BC in order to earn my Massage Therapy Diploma. Continue reading

Contrast Bathing

Contrast bathing is a great way to increase circulation and reduce pain with many musculoskeletal pathological symptoms such as aches, pains and inflammation. In order to get the most out of your contrast bath use the following guidelines:

  • Find two tubs large enough to submerge the affected limb (most often a hand or foot). Fill the tubs with water; one with warm or hot water (no more than 38 degrees Celsius please, we don’t want to burn ourselves!), and the other with cool or cold water (at least 10 degrees Celsius cooler than the warm or hot tub).
  • Submerge the affected limb in the warm or hot water first. Let the limb rest in the water for anywhere from 2 to 20 minutes.
  • Take the limbs out of the warm or hot water, and submerge in the cool or cold water. You should spend half the time with the affected limb submerged in the cool or cold water than you spent submerged in the warm or hot water. If you spent 2 minutes in the warm water you should spend one minute in the cool water; if you spent 20 minutes in the warm water, you should spend 10 minutes in the cool water, and so on.
  • Alternate between the warm or hot and cool or cold water with the 2:1 ratio at least 3 times. Always end the contrast bath with the affected limb submerged in the cool or cold water.

Neural Glides – Nerve Flossing for Ulnar, Median, Radial & Sciatic Nerves

Dr. Jo does an excellent job explaining the best practices for nerve flossing in the following video.

While nerve flossing is good to maintain free movement of the nerves, especially surrounding adhesion and/or scar tissue, it is possible to over-floss and irritate your nerves. Discontinue immediately flossing exercises should your symptoms persist and/or get worse.

4-7-8 Breathing

Breathing… It’s something most of us rarely think about. It happens naturally and without effort most of the time.

Using your breath with skill and intention can lead to reduced stress and blood pressure and less anxiety. It can enhance relaxation, reduce pain and even act as a sleep aid for some. I invite you to try including the 4-7-8 relaxation breathing exercises as described below in your daily routine; when you feel tensions rising, when you just need a break, or in place of having a cigarette should you be trying to quit smoking, or even before you fall asleep if sleep doesn’t come easily to you. I invite to make this exercise a habit and see for yourself the profound effects simply breathing with intention can have on you and your overall health.

To Begin
• Ideally, sit or lay with your back straight.
• Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper-front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise.
• Exhale through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.

The Breath
• Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
• Close your mouth & inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of 4.
• Hold your breath for a count of 7.
• Exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound, to a count of 8.
This is one breath. Now, inhale again and repeat the cycle 3 more times for a total of 4 breaths.

The Numbers
The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important, but the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed up the exercise, but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice, you can slow it down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more, and more deeply.

What the Exercise is Good For?
This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which often are effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it, but gains in power with repetition and practice. Use this new skill whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep.

How Often?
Do it at least twice a day. You can’t do it too frequently. Do not do more than 4 breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to 8 breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned – it will pass.

Why Me as your RMT?

Part of the marketing workshop I’m making my way through asks me to answer this question. It encourages me to set my modesty aside, to be bold, to express myself fully. This is not an easy task, so I figured it’d make for an interesting article here. Why should you choose me over all the other equally qualified RMTs? What can I offer that another RMT may not offer? We all have similar educations, we must all pass the same competency-based board exams, and many have far more hands-on experience than I do. So what makes me a great choice for you, when you are selecting your Registered Massage Therapist (RMT)? Continue reading

Lesser Known Indications for BC RMTs

When I decided to become a massage therapist, I had no idea that this was such an involved and complicated field. When the word massage came to mind, it came with words like luxury, spoil, or indulge. Having completed the comprehensive massage therapy program at WCCMT, successfully completing the provincial board exams and establishing my own company, Aspect Health & Registered Massage Therapy, the word massage no longer resonates with such extravagant words. The word massage now emulates words like pain-reduction, relief, and health. Continue reading

Relax! It May Save Your Life

Karōshi is a Japanese word that translates to ‘death from overwork’. It is used to describe occupational sudden deaths, which occur most commonly by heart attack or stroke due to stress and starvation. We don’t have such a word in English and in general, stress is downplayed in our daily lives. Sentences like, “it’s just stress,” are common. So what is this stress that the Japanese revere so much that they have a word to describe death by it, and that we in the West seem to commonly brush off and ignore as so very minor? Continue reading

Trigger Point Release

I hear the words Trigger Point coming from just about every direction these days. The girl at the gym has a trigger point in her hip flexor that she just can’t reach, or so her health guru who administers her IMS has told her. The guy at physiotherapy has trigger points in his neck, caused by a motor vehicle accident he had years ago, which are continually reducing his ability to turn his head to shoulder check. And a new patient in my clinic asks if I can perform Trigger Point Therapy on her shoulder, like her last massage therapist did. Continue reading

Why do our muscles twitch sometimes?

You’re sitting in a meeting and your left eyelid is twitching uncontrollably. You wonder if the person opposite can see it, and why it’s happening.

Many people experience neurological symptoms that are quite normal for healthy individuals including cramps, pain, dizziness, numbness and muscle twitches. Light, involuntary muscle twitches are very common and can occur in any skeletal muscle. Continue reading

Muscle Wasting – Use It or Lose It

Fitness and health professionals alike will often talk about muscle atrophy or muscle wasting. Anyone who follows a regular fitness program and has taken a break from it for some time can attest to his or her own very quickly reduced abilities upon returning to fitness. In my case, I’ve been back to CrossFit twice now in the past week after spending just over 3-weeks pretty much in bed. Of course, I’m not actually doing the CrossFit Workouts of the Day (or WODs), but am instead concentrating on rebuilding and maintaining everything but my healing leg, with a program built specific to my needs by my very talented coach, Meghan.

It’s surprising to realize that my strength abilities have more than halved what they were before. While pre-accident I was able to do biceps curls with 30-35lb dumbbells, now, I’m using just 12lbs. I was able to do a standing shoulder press with a 60lb bar, while now I’m seated, using 12lb dumbbells. It’s not possible to lift the bar without weight bearing on my leg (even while laying on a bench your feet must somewhat dig into the ground to stabilize you), so we substitute with dumbbells. I can do less sit-ups and push-ups (on my knees of course, to leave the leg out of it). And while I have learned to row with one leg, it’s takes far less time for me to become winded.

Muscle atrophy is a very real thing and it happens very quickly. While I knew this intellectually and somewhat physically after say attempting to run a long distance for the first time in a long time, I can now, thanks to this injury show you what it looks like visually. In this photo you can see the atrophy in my left leg very clearly.

This is from just 3.5 weeks of non-weight-bearing, in other words not using these muscles at all. The difference between each leg is huge and I thought worthy of sharing with you. Contrary to what it may seem, this wasting is not caused by the cast itself or malnutrition to the area, nor is it a direct result of the injuries to the leg. This is fully due to non-use. And while I’ve been given small exercises to do for my ankle by the surgeon, simply flexing and extending my ankle, I have very little motion and what I do have is extremely difficult to do. Here’s a short video clip showing just that:

This goes to show one of the reasons why it’s so difficult to start any sort of physical activity after being sedentary for any length of time. Fit people aren’t simply better than you at fitness as so many of us would like to believe. Stop beating yourself up with this line of thought! Even the fittest of people had to start somewhere too, and it’s always with difficulty. It’s not strength that makes a person fit. Instead it’s persistence, self-acceptance (it’s ok if you can’t run as far as the next guy, or lift as much as the girl in front you can – yet, you will!), and dedication that makes a person truly fit. And with fitness comes strength!  Once you get over the first few hurdles to becoming fit, what happens is a great thing fueled by endorphins, and it makes becoming fit far easier, even pleasurable for you.

Endorphins are hormones that get released with extended exercise. They are much like an athletes drug as they make you feel great (during exercise and for long after), and they are addictive. Endorphins however, are an addiction that’s actually good for you! If you really want to be more fit take the first few steps, grit your teeth through the first few struggles and before you know it you will be just that and it will become much, much easier!  And it happens quicker than you’d think.

After October 22, when I see the surgeon again who will presumably tell me I am allowed to start weight bearing again, I will show you the full extent of this leg’s wasting, and the progress I make building my leg back up!

I started writing this entry thinking of it as an update on my condition, but as I wrote I found there is a lot of information that is more beneficial to you and thus more important to share. So before I close I’ll give you a quick update on what’s happening personally with my recovery, in addition to the CrossFit attendance I mentioned above.

I’m doing well. The pain while still there is changing in nature. I can feel the screws and acute pain around my ankle joint. My skin often feels like it’s burning, especially around the surgical incision, where it’s most bruised still and in areas where the cast compresses it. I still don’t have normal sensation in my big toe or on the bottom arch of my foot. The pain is worse at night and first thing in the morning. During the day it seems to let up and I’m able to move around a fair bit more so long as I’m sure to take rest in-between with my leg elevated. I have not had to take any narcotics for a few days now and I’m hoping I won’t have to take anymore at all. For the pain, I am managing with just Tylenol & Robax – and even that I am usually able to hold off until nighttime.

I am getting a little better on the crutches and I’m generally feeling a whole lot better about my recovery. I have had the chance to get a full body massage treatment and I have had a Manual Lymph Drainage Therapy treatment as well. This has helped with my general soreness and the swelling around my ankle immensely!

And of course… My dedicated furry friends are still spending as much time with me as possible.