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The Foam Roller: How and Why You Should Use It

Posted on November 11, 2015 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (2)

Singer Shakira tells us that our hips don't lie. Most physical therapists would agree. Your hip mobility, or lack thereof, reveals your susceptibility to injury, as well as your athletic performance potential. Since your hips create a bridge between your upper and lower torso, their flexibility and alignment affects your entire body. Static and dynamic stretching, combined with self massage on foam rollers, helps you maintain the health of your hips.


Self-myofascial release, also known as “foam rolling,” has transformed from a once mysterious technique used only by professional athletes, coaches, and therapists to a familiar everyday practice for people at all levels of fitness. Recent information, technology, and affordable products have introduced an increasing array of training and recovery methods to the average person.



Self-myofascial release is a fancy term for self-massage to release muscle tightness or trigger points. This method can be performed with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, or your own hands. By applying pressure to specific points on your body you are able to aid in the recovery of muscles and assist in returning them to normal function. Normal function means your muscles are elastic, healthy, and ready to perform at a moment’s notice.


Do I Have Tight Muscles or Trigger Points?

Trigger points are specific “knots” that form in muscles. They are unique and can be identified because they will refer pain. Pain referral, for our purposes, can most easily be described as the pain felt when pressure is applied to one area of the body, but the pain is felt or radiated in another area.


A common example of a trigger point is felt while foam rolling your iliotibial (IT) band as it causes pain to radiate up to the hip or all the way down the leg to the ankle. When rolling or working on tight/sore muscles you will experience discomfort or pain. Think of it like the pain you get while stretching. It should be uncomfortable, but not unbearable, and when you are done it should feel better.

 

What Causes Trigger Points and Tight Muscles?

Both have the same contributing factors including training, flexibility, movement patterns, posture, nutrition, hydration, rest, stress, and other lifestyle factors. Our bodies learn to compensate for what we throw at them every day, but we can exceed our ability to recover via too many intense workouts, poor posture, and other lifestyle factors.


This is when you need assistance using recovery techniques or through seeing a professional. If you lived a perfect life with everything in balance, you would theoretically never have either of these conditions, however I’ve yet to meet that person.


How Does Self-Myofascial Release Work?

Deep compression helps to break up or relax tight muscles and adhesions formed between muscle layers and their surroundings. Imagine you are tenderizing your own muscles. They should be soft and supple like a baby’s muscles. However, if our muscles are not taken care of properly we can experience loss of flexibility, adhesions, and painful movement.


The deep compression of self-myofascial release allows normal blood flow to return and the restoration of healthy tissue. The body naturally wants to be healthy and strong, but sometimes an extra boost is needed to achieve optimal muscle and tissue health.


How Do I Know What to Foam Roll and How to Do It?

Should you need help in identifying area of concern, feel free to contact me to discuss which area/s to focus on.


If after using the foam roller your movement improves, you have a more specific strategy to follow. Secondly, trigger points and tight muscles can be found through self-exploration, utilizing the list of techniques below and exploring each one.


To foam roll properly, apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle or muscle group using the roller and your body-weight. You should roll slowly, no more than one inch per second. When you find areas that are tight or painful, pause for several seconds and relax as much as possible.You should slowly start to feel the muscle releasing, and after 5-30 seconds the discomfort or pain should lessen.


If an area is too painful to apply direct pressure, shift the roller and apply pressure on the surrounding area and gradually work to loosen the entire area. The goal is to restore healthy muscles - it is not a pain tolerance test. You may also use other objects to work on muscles such as a tennis ball, lacrosse ball.


Never roll a joint or bone. Avoid rolling your lower back. To target these muscles I recommend using tennis or lacrosse balls. If you are having issues with your neck, refer these issues to an appropriate medical professional, as these areas they can be more sensitive and require more advanced attention.

 

What Happens After Foam Rolling?

You may be sore the next day. It should feel as if your muscles have been worked/released, however you should not push yourself to the point of excessive soreness. Drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, and eat clean. This will help to flush your system and fuel your muscles more effectively. Give it 24-48 hours before focusing on the same area again.

What is Aromatherapy?

Posted on September 15, 2015 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy defines aromatherapy as “the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit.”

 

Aromatherapy uses essential oils which can be extracted from flowers, seeds, barks, herbs, and roots. While there is not much evidence to support its effectiveness in treating or preventing any illness, there are several clinical studies that have found it to be an effective complimentary therapy method.



 

Pain Fighting Powers of Essential Oils

 

It has become a commonality in the United States for individuals suffering from sickness and pain to turn to over the counter and prescription medicines for treat various ailments. Next time you feel the need to open a bottle of ibuprofen, try a more invigorating method of managing pain provided by nature, without added chemical content. Essential oils can provide relief for many serious chronic pain sufferers through their ability to penetrate cells quickly, providing oxygen and improving circulation to inflamed joints.

 

Chronic Pain:

There are a number of essential oils that provide relief not only from the discomfort of chronic pain, but also the anxiety and stress that come along with it.

 

Basil: Energizing and uplifting, with anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant and decongestant benefits.

Peppermint: Cools and calms the mind with additional anti-inflammatory, gallbladder and pain relieving benefits.

Wintergreen: Increases attentiveness with additional neck, nerve, herniated disk and carpal tunnel pain relieving benefits.

Clove: Improves memory and assists healing with anti-aging, arthritis and rheumatism benefits.

Lavender: Relaxes and balances the body, with anti-inflammatory benefits.

Sandalwood: Encourages relaxation with additional antidepressant benefits.

 

Joint & Bone Pain:

There are many causes for joint or bone pain including natural aging, injury or trauma. This type of pain is most common in middle aged or older individuals because as you age, your body goes through changes including a decrease in bone density. While joint and bone pain typically require medical attention, there are essential oils that will assist with managing this type of pain.

 

Helichrysum: Offers anti-inflammatory and nerve regenerating benefits.

Idaho Balsam Fir: Eases sore muscles, joints, tendons and back pain.

Spruce: Soothes arthritis, rheumatism, back pain, sciatica and bone pain.

Palo Santo: Helps with inflammation.

 

Muscle Pain:

It is not uncommon to experience muscle aches and pain that often go away within a few days. Muscle pain becomes a larger concern when it lingers for a longer time period and particularly when it occurs in the neck and back. In fact, 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives making it one of the most common reasons people visit their doctor or miss work. Muscle pain includes aching, stabbing or shooting pain, and stiff or limited flexibility. If you are experiencing muscle pain, it is recommended that you be evaluated by a physician in addition to trying essential oils that may alleviate some of the discomfort.

 

Roman Chamomile: Relieves stress and anxiety and offers anti-inflammatory, relaxant and detoxifying benefits.

Majoram: Helps with aches, pains and muscular cramps.

Rosemary: Keeps the mind alert and can help with muscle soreness.

Thyme: Fights fatigue and can help with rheumatism.

Vetiver: Helps with joint stiffness and muscle fatigue.


 

Essential oils are so effective because they by-pass the digestive system and become absorbed directly into the blood stream. With millenniums of successful use, they not only provide enticing, awakening and pleasant aromas, they help fight pain by reducing inflammation, anxiety and stress. Whether you are using essential oils for your health or your home, relieving pain is just one of the amazing powers packed into the little bottle.

The Importance of Proper Posture

Posted on June 1, 2015 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Talk of good posture often generates images of women walking in a circle with books balanced on their heads or soldiers standing at attention. But good posture does not have to be rigid or ridiculous. In fact, far from ridiculous, it may be the key to good health.


According to Patrick Wroblewski, a Boulder, Colorado-based structural integration practitioner, "Good posture is a dynamic, working awareness of how gravity is coming down through the body." In other words, just as the body moves and changes throughout the day, so should posture.




Wroblewski explains that many people come in to his practice with complaints of lower back pain, and stiff necks and shoulders, most of which have a direct correlation to poor posture. If a person sits hunched in front of a computer screen all day, it's likely the head hovers towards the screen, the lower back has collapsed and the tail bone is supporting the weight, and legs are crossed or splayed. Bad standing posture includes the same hunching or lateral misalignment, like standing with a hip cocked to one side. These common forms of less-than-perfect posture mean less-than-healthy consequences for the body.


Does Posture Matter?

Ever feel low on energy? Get sick often? Experience headaches or digestive upset, like constipation or diarrhea? Feel less agile than you used to be? Your postural habits may be behind these symptoms.


Proper posture means the body is aligned so that all the muscles work as they were designed to. On the other hand, poor posture leads to inefficient movement, causing the muscles to have to do extra work. For instance, if the head isn't resting correctly on top of the neck and spine but hovers over the chest instead, the muscles at the back of the neck have to remain contracted to hold the head up. The results? Circulation becomes hindered, and oxygen and nutrients have a hard time flowing through the body. Contracted muscles are less able to receive hydration and energy, and the tissue eventually becomes hard and fibrous. Eventually, muscles can pull bones out of alignment and cause serious problems and discomfort.


The bottom line is, poor posture can lead to muscular stress and fatigue, which can in turn lead to deficient circulation, compromised immunity, and poor lymph flow--which brings us back to low energy, frequent illness, headaches, digestive issues, and waning agility. So to answer our earlier question, yes, posture matters.


Perfecting Posture

Correcting poor posture requires undoing the hardening, or fibrosis, of the muscles that have been habitually contracted, allowing them to relax and the bones to move back into place. Perhaps a simple concept, but not an easy task.




Wroblewski uses a combination of techniques to help correct posture: Swedish massage can help increase circulation and release chronically held areas. Deep tissue massage helps wake up the body and reverse some of the fibrosis in the tissue. And other bodywork techniques can further precipitate postural adjustments. He says, "Any kind of manipulation--craniosacral, acupressure--can cause an unwinding of tension and allow the body to release to the position in which it belongs."


According to Wroblewski, bodywork can induce a "neutral reprogramming," so that people can start from scratch and learn to recognize when good posture is breaking down. Then the necessary adjustments can be made.


What's a Body To Do?

Desk jobs are notorious for wreaking havoc and causing postural impairments. Sitting for hours on end staring at a computer screen is likely one of the worst things you can do to your body. If you spend a lot of time sitting, make sure both feet are flat on the ground to give yourself a "tripod" of stability for the spine to rest on. Also, be sure to take frequent breaks, even if it just means walking to the window for a moment, or getting a glass of water. And when standing, distribute weight evenly between both feet, and don't lock the knees or ankles.


Good posture takes practice, practice, practice and constant reminding. Wroblewski suggests leaving reminders in places where you will run into them throughout your day.


Old habits die hard, and this is true for muscular habits too. Be sure to schedule a series of massage treatments to help retrain the body. And talk to your practitioner about stretches and posture tips that can enhance your massage sessions. As you progress, you will notice less joint and muscle pain, fewer headaches, more energy, and possibly even stronger immunity and better digestion. Finally, you will develop a stronger awareness of your body and an increased sense of well being.


Join my monthly 'Bodysense' program to begin your journey to better posture today!

April is National Stress-Awareness Month

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Since April is National Stress-Awareness Month, I thought the best way to celebrate would be for me to address how massage therapy can lower cortisol levels, increase dopamine and serotonin (our happy, feel-good hormones), and lower excitatory hormones like norepinephrine and epinephrine.


Having too much norepinephrine or epinephrine it can lead to feelings of anxiety.


While having too little dopamine and serotonin can cause depression and other psychological problems. What I discovered about our bodies and massage through my work is:


Parasympathetic nervous system is the part of the involuntary nervous system that serves to slow the heart rate, Your body can move between two main states of being - the sympathetic state and a parasympathetic state. The sympathetic mode is what we think of as fight-or-flight mode. It's when the body triggers the autonomic nervous system’s stress hormones and ups our adrenal response. Most of us are in some level of sympathetic state just dealing with day-to-day stresses. Massage has been shown to help the body shift into a parasympathetic state. By supporting real stress relief, massage can set the body into a "rest and digest mode." What’s great is even a relaxation massage has the opportunity to chemically support a healthier state of being.


Multiple studies have also shown that regular massage decreases hormones that cause anxiety while also raising hormones that cause calm and happy feelings. As a result, cortisol levels are lowered which help mood and overall health.


How often one should get a massage depends on their individual physiological state. Some people find amazing benefits during the first session, others take more time to settle in and fully receive the treatment. One of the other aspects of massage that can prove to be helpful, is that the more massage your receive, the more you gain from it's benefits. Kind of like the way you work up the endurance to run a marathon, the more your body receives massage, the deeper and more effective massage becomes.


So, like most things related to great health, the more consistent you are the greater your outcomes.


Slowing down and taking the time to do something that nurtures our bodies in a more gentle way is something we need to do even if it feels like “wasting time” initially. Eventually, I hope more people view massage as an essential part of physical and psychological health maintenance rather than a luxury to be indulged in when we have the time. One should never underestimate the power of taking even an hour for yourself to breath, rest, and receive therapeutic attention.


In celebration of Stress Awareness Month and Spring being the time of year representing renewal: I am offering 2 Specials


A gift certificate for a 70 minute treatment of your choice for a friend for 50 dollars!

A 75 minute Aromatherapy Massage of your choice for 60 dollars!

Buy Now

Massage may help protect against high blood pressure

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Massage may help protect against high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. Some studies suggest that getting a massage may help calm the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for raising your blood pressure in response to stress. Although research on massage and blood pressure is fairly limited, there's some evidence that adding massage to your stress management may help keep your blood pressure in check.

 


 

A number of studies indicate that Swedish massage (a gentle, relaxing massage type) may be useful for lowering blood pressure. For instance, a 2006 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine tested the blood-pressure-lowering effects of several types of massage. Looking at readings taken before and after 150 study members received massage treatments, researchers found that Swedish massage reduced blood pressure while trigger point therapy and sports massage each raised blood pressure.

 

Some research indicates that aromatherapy massage may also help lower blood pressure. In a 2007 study from the International Journal of Neuroscience, for example, 58 women in menopause were assigned to either a control group or eight weekly aromatherapy massage sessions using lavender, rose geranium, rose, and jasmine essential oils. Study results suggest that aromatherapy massage may aid in blood pressure control.

 

In addition, a 2008 study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that undergoing deep-tissue massage therapy while listening to soothing music may lead to a decrease in both blood pressure and heart rate.

 

Following a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding smoking are all crucial for healthy blood pressure. While it's too soon to recommend massage therapy for blood pressure control, receiving massage on a regular basis may lessen your stress and—in turn—help protect against high blood pressure. For other stress management solutions, consider taking up yoga, meditation, or tai chi.

 

If you're interested in using massage to manage your blood pressure, talk to your doctor about incorporating massage into your health routine. Self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.

Are you a part of the lucky 20%?

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Research indicates the majority of the public will experience some type of acute or chronic back pain at some point in their life.


 

Experts say the cause of back pain can be the result of several factors. High on the list is stress. When our body is stressed, we literally begin to pull inward: the shoulders roll forward and move up to the ears, the neck disappears, and the back tightens in the new posture. "It's an armoring effect," says Angie Parris-Raney, a Denver-based massage therapist who specializes in deep-tissue massage and sports therapy. "That protective mode, with the muscles in flex, can even result in visceral problems," she says, where the pain also affects internal organs.

 

In addition to stress, poor posture, bad ergonomics, lack of exercise, arthritis, osteoporosis, a sedentary lifestyle, overexertion, pregnancy, kidney stones, fibromyalgia, excess weight, and more can contribute to pain.

 

Geoffrey Bishop, owner of Stay Tuned Therapeutics in Flagstaff, Arizona, says mechanics is the main cause of back pain that he sees in his practice. "It's mechanics, including repetitive use and ignorance about preventative postures, and neglect by employers and employees to provide rest and recovery." The past also plays a part, he says. "Old injuries and traumatic events, left untreated and unresolved, seem to dictate where stress lands in the back as well."

 

Massage Offers Hope: Those who suffer with back pain know there are no easy answers for chasing the pain away. Physical therapy has proven effective for some sufferers, as has chiropractic and acupuncture, but massage therapy is also making a name for itself when it comes to providing relief. In fact, research has shown that massage can be a great friend to the back-pain sufferer.

 

"Massage therapists have long treated low-back pain safely and effectively," says Les Sweeney, president of Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. "They have done so less expensively and less invasively than is possible with other treatments."

 

In fact, a study by the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle found that massage was more effective at treating low-back pain than medication. Patients who received massage once a week for 10 weeks were more likely to report that their back pain had improved, and improvements were still present six months after the study. Other research from the University of Miami School of Medicine and the Touch Research Institute showed that massage can decrease stress and long-term pain, improve sleep and range of motion, and help lower the incidence of depression and anxiety that often accompanies back pain.

 

For Parris-Raney's clients, the length of pain relief provided by massage therapy varies depending on the condition they are experiencing. Getting on a regular massage schedule, however, has really helped her clients manage the back pain, she says. When they go past their normally scheduled appointment, "their bodies know it's time to get a massage again." Whether it's just helping clients get through the day, or reminding the stressed-out office worker to breathe, Parris-Raney says massage can play an important part in back pain relief.

 

Whitney Lowe, owner of Oregon's Orthopedic Massage Education and Research Institute, says the benefits of massage for back pain depend on the primary cause of the pain. "If it is predominantly muscular pain, then massage has a great deal to offer in reducing pain associated with chronic muscle tightness, spasms, myofascial trigger points, or those types of problems. If it's something caused by a joint alignment problem or compression on a nerve, for example, then the role of massage might be somewhat different, such as helping to address the biomechanical dysfunctions, but not really being able to get pressure off the nerve itself."

 

Massage Works: When it comes to back pain, there are a lot of options out there. Ultimately, massage, and its myriad benefits, might be a viable answer. For back pain sufferers, Parris-Raney says massage can work wonders. "Massage can help relax the body, relax the psyche, and improve a client's range of motion and circulation to the affected tissues," she says. Not only can massage help directly with the pain, but it can also make life a little easier, too. "Massage lets you tap into the parasympathetic system," she says, "and tap into all the good hormones that help you sleep better and help you handle stressors along the way." All of that helps in building a healthier back and a happier you.

The Science of Happiness

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A human issue for today's thoughts..... Happiness.

All of us want it and strive toward it, addressing it in different ways. Children are taught fairy tales where people live happily ever after. That isn't reality of course, but we still seek that very thing.

Watching and listening to Nancy Etcoff presenting a TED talk on Happiness was very interesting and enlightening. What I got out of her talk is the following:

  • We are programmed to seek happiness.
  • High levels of happiness are unsustainable.
  • Small increases in happiness over time provides a more general happiness level over that period of time. Or as a friend put it, "Give yourself fun things to look forward to.

I have always been a believer that massage enables our bodies to disengage from feeling of stress and engages us to feel a much better sense of well being, at least for a bit of time. It is a great way to feel better!

https://www.ted.com/talks/nancy_etcoff_on_happiness_and_why_we_want_it" target="_blank">Check out the TED talk yourself and see what you think.


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