I often have clients arriving with pain in their knees or elbows. Whenever you feel pain in these areas, it often is because of soft tissue and muscles pulling tight either above or below the joint, and so yanking on the bone they are attached to, pulling it out of its natural alignment and causing pain as a result. So if you experience pain in these areas, it is worth seeing if the surrounding muscles feel sore when you push in on them. If they do, then you can reassure yourself that it is only a tightness in the soft tissue which is the reason for the pain, and this is easily addressed by a deep tissue massage.
I have had several clients recently showing similar patterns of tight muscles and resulting hip pain, which seems to come from a common problem. Take a look at this diagram of our ankle joints….
Do you see how many muscles span across the front of the ankle? Now imagine these muscles in a tight and shortened state, the ankle would not be able to move back and forth very easily. When this happens, we are unable to do big bouncy strides, bouncing off the balls of our feet and leaping forward. Instead, the foot is locked into a more static position and our stride is shortened with a flat pronated foot.
This then sets up a chain of events where the whole leg movement is strained on to the hamstrings, which in turn tighten and can pin the pelvis down, causing hip pain. The flattened (pronated) foot movement also then sets up a chain of events where, in order to stay upright, the knee takes an inward (medial) dive, putting strain on external rotator muscles at the top of the leg, which then also cause hip pain. If the person is a runner, they end up with a running gait a bit like ‘Rachel’ from Friends, if you remember that funny episode.
So the key to avoiding all this is quite simple. The anterior muscles of the ankle joint need to stay flexible and the joint needs to be able to move freely back and forth (flexion and extension). A deep tissue massage focusing on this area, especially if you do regular exercise, will be a great preventative measure to ensure pain free good performance.
So to move
Trigger points in the masseter muscles of the jaw can cause no end of mischief.
They can be a cause of pain in both upper and lower teeth, as well as a source of tooth hypersensitivity to hot and cold temperatures. They can also cause pain under the eyes, over the eyebrows, often mistaken for sinusitis. They can cause deep inner ear pain and a sense of a low ‘roaring’ sound. The resulting tightness in the jaw’s ability to move properly encourages tightness in the vocal mechanism. Various singers with whom I have treated this muscle have reported to me a better ability to reaching their notes afterwards. Trigger points can be created in this muscle by chewing gum and biting nails.
This muscle is easy to self treat however, good news for all! You just need to put your thumb inside your mouth and squeeze the muscle between your thumb and forefingers. It feels thick and rubbery. Find any sore spot along the muscle, which will be eye-wateringly painful when the muscle contains trigger points. Squeeze as much as you can bear, each day until it no longer hurts. You will feel the results immediately. Alternately you can mention it when booking in for your deep tissue massage treatment and have it treated for you.
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, 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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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?
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.
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.