Sore Shoulders, hump back

Many people come to me for treatment with sore shoulders. In the vast majority of cases, it is very obvious from the moment I open the door to them, that they are holding themselves in what is commonly known as a ‘forward head posture’. 

When habitually leaning forward with your chin stuck out, the weight of the head is thrown on to neck muscles which are not designed to take this extra 5 Kg of weight. This leads to pain across the top of the shoulders, tightened chest, and in extreme cases, the appearance of a hump back.

A deep tissue massage will address the resulting trigger points the stressed muscles from this posture creates. To avoid future pain in the shoulders, you must be aware to keep your chin tucked in and the top of your head nice and tall. It is very easy to stick the chin forward when busy looking at a screen, driving, rushing to get somewhere, but if you stop and tuck it in, this will soon become normal posture and you will no longer have the associated shoulder pain.

 

Neck Pain

 

Neck pain, headaches or difficulties in turning your head are often just down to muscle tension in the neck. Precise and focused deep tissue massage can be extremely helpful with these problems, however it is also very important to look at what you think may have caused the problem in the first place.Fascia painting

Sleeping habits could be a major factor – do you sleep on your front? A prone sleeping position will be straining those muscles all night long. Your choice of pillows could also be a factor – are you allowing your spine to keep as straight as possible? Everyday habits such as the tilt of car seats, telephone and computer position all create habitual strains on the muscles.  Are you always in a rush to get somewhere? As soon as we rush, our chin posture tends to alter, is thrust into forward head posture, in turn straining the muscles of our neck.

A combination of recognising possible contributing factors, along with some deep tissue massage treatments would go a long way to changing any problem neck pain.

Tensegrity in the Body

Our skeletons are held up by the soft tissue in our bodies, in tension, so as the bones do not actually touch one another. This enables a wide range of free movement between the joints in the body.

This sculpture that I came across whilst attending an Open Day at Canterbury University recently shows this concept really well.

tensegrity-at-canterbury-uni-campusThe poles in the sculpture do not touch (like the bones).They are held taught by the wires (like the soft tissue, ie fascia, tendons, ligaments, muscles). If someone was to tug on one part of the sculpture, the resulting movement of the poles would create an effect further along the sculpture.

This is also what happens within the body. Tight soft tissue at one end will have repercussions further along a line throughout the body, resulting in the bones being pulled out of alignment slightly which in turn can cause pain and restricted movement.

Regular deep tissue massage can prevent this from becoming a problem and enabling you to use your body to its optimum ability.

Muscle Pain which keeps Returning

 

massage logoMuscle pain is caused by’ trigger points’ within the muscle. These trigger points can be treated by deep tissue massage techniques to eliminate them, but sometimes they just keep coming back!

Pain caused by one-time events can be obvious, and the resulting trigger points do not usually return. A one-time episode of overloading the muscle, an occasional heavy lifting,  ambitious exercise when out of condition, or a sudden enthusiastic burst of different activity can all create mischievous trigger points.

However if muscles are put into a chronic overloading situation, such as in an everyday work situation, or a postural stance which strains the muscle repeatedly, then unless you are able to change the conditions which cause the problem, the trigger points and hence the pain, will keep returning.

A good massage therapist should also be able to advise you on changing any postural problems you may have or work-related changes which may be needed, to try and prevent returning trigger points becoming a problem.

 

Pain Free Travel

Many people have to sit for long periods of time to travel, whether its by car, train or plane. To be aware of your sitting posture can make the world of difference to being pain-free at your destination.

drawingThe crucial point to think about is to be able to sit on TOP of the sitting bones of your pelvis, and not to roll behind them. The vast majority of seats are not designed with this in mind and it is very difficult to sit correctly. A good supply of wedges are essential for a long journey to enable you to sit on top of the sitting bones. If you place your hands underneath your bottom whilst sitting, you can feel the bones with which you need to sit up on. Once sitting correctly, you should not need a back rest, as your spine is designed to be comfortably upright above your pelvis. If you rely on a backrest, then the chances are that you are not sitting correctly to begin with. Your knees need to be slightly below your hip level, and your feet on the ground.

I often take a small hard cushion with me when travelling, and also find a coat is very useful to ball up and stick between my lower back and the seat upright, even if just sitting down at the cinema.

The second point to think about is to keep the chin tucked in, which is especially an issue if you are driving. It is an easy tendency to stick the chin forward, to display a ‘forward head posture’ which in turn compresses the back of the neck. With the chin tucked in, the back of the neck stays nice and long, and this way can avoid associated shoulder pain.

If you already have existing back/neck/shoulder pain, don’t despair!  This can be addressed with some deep tissue massage to set you on your way and with a bit of  postural knowledge, future pain from this can be avoided.

What are Trigger Points?

Trigger points can develop in any muscle in the body and can last as long as life if left untreated. The pain created by trigger points is an enormous cause of disability and time off work. They can accumulate over a lifetime and appear to be the main cause of joint stiffness and loss of mobility in old age. The constant muscle tension imposed by trigger points over stresses muscle attachments and can damage the joints. But what are trigger points?drawing

Trigger points are areas within muscles which have a localized spot of tenderness in a palpable taut band of muscle tissue. It feels like a hard ‘nodule’ and when pressed firmly will hurt and often refer pain to another site, often near to a joint, which in turn makes people modify their movements. By exerting pressure on these trigger points, the blood flow is rapidly increased to the area which helps to ‘release’ these taught bands and allow the muscle to function properly again.

Regular deep tissue massages can detect  these trigger points and eliminate them, allowing you to have as best pain free mobility as possible, well into old age.

Back Pain and Sitting Down

If we have to sit for long periods of time during the day, whether for a job or in the car, the constant pressure of the seat edge against the backs of our thighs can cut off circulation to a certain extent, which can promote trigger points in the hamstring muscles. These trigger points will tighten and shorten the muscles, which in turn can then pull down on the back of the pelvis to which they are attached. The resulting abnormal posture of a posterior tilt and flattening of the lower back curve distorts how the muscles in this area work, often resulting in chronic lower back pain.

If trigger points are already causing mischief within these muscles, then some good deep tissue massages can eliminate them, which followed by regular stretching of your hamstrings, will go a long way to preventing this happening.

 

Back Pain

Getting rid of back pain is often simpler than most people realise. Many people are anxious by the fear of pinched nerves, ruptured discs, or arthritis, when there is a good chance the pain felt is coming from myofascial trigger points in muscles. In fact it is usually the resulting muscle tension from these trigger points which can cause the vertebrae to move out of alignment and thus causes compression of nerves and discs.

The only time deep spinal muscles are relaxed, except when lying down, is when you stand perfectly straight, with weight evenly distributed. So any careless posture will result in these muscles becoming severely overworked. Slouching, rounded hunched shoulders, head hanging forwards are all positions of stress for these muscles. It is then easy for these overworked muscles to create trigger points within themselves.

Deep tissue massage to address these trigger points, coupled with an awareness of good posture will go a long way to prevent back pain altogether.

Pain and Aging

A question sometimes asked is ‘Why do animals not seem to develop the same sort of muscular pains and injuries as humans do?’

A popular idea in answer to this is that we, as humans, were not originally designed to live much beyond 35-40 years old. After this age, many of us develop persistent muscular aches and pains. We now live well beyond our natural lifespan, due to great advances in hygiene and healthcare.

However our generally sedentary lifestyles and bad food choices put our bodies under unnatural strains, allowing the soft tissues to become sticky and dehydrated,  locking tight across joints which previously could move freely, and creating trigger points within muscles. This is often according to our posture or repetitive actions we put our bodies into on a daily basis, developing patterns of strain which run  through the body. In turn this can lead to debilitating pain conditions such as ‘frozen shoulders’, most common in people after the age of 40.

Regular good deep tissue massage will go a long way in helping these tight sticky soft tissues  to remain more able to slide and glide and thus help to deter the onset of muscular pain conditions.

Tingling or Numb Fingers

This is often given the label of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but often has very little to do with the Carpal Tunnel in the wrist itself. Unfortunately people are often sent for surgery on the Carpal Tunnel, only to have their symptoms of numbness or tingling return as it is more usually due to a nerve compression from the muscles.

The most common muscles which do this are the scalenes, in your neck. Tight scalenes pull up the first rib against the collarbone, squeezing the nerves and blood vessels that pass between them. It is this pressure is often the cause of numbness and tingling in the hands and fingers.

A deep tissue massage to enable these muscles to release their tight hold on the top rib, will allow it to drop and stop any compression.