Posterior Hip Stretching - Part 1 - Gluteual group
Many clients come into my Westport office indicating lower back pain. While this pain is often very complicated and differs with each client, it has been clinically proven that tension in the hips affects the low back region. And although the muscles in this area are literally the largest in the body, they are often overlooked in our daily stretching routines. This is unfortunate, because not only do we use these muscles with every step and while standing, but we also pull on them while sitting, meaning they are under contractile force almost constantly. This constant force pulls on surrounding muscles and bones, causing discomfort.
In the next two posts, I'll explore the two most effective stretches to loosen this region. These particular stretches are even more effective performed in an assisted way, during a massage therapy session at my office. The next time you come in, I'll be pleased to perform the stretches along with you. Most clients are amazed when the see what the combination of massage therapy and stretching does for flexibility!
The Gluteal muscles include Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, and Gluteus Minimus. As a group, these muscles attach from the sacrum and illium of the pelvis to the top of the femur. This means they are involved in the motions of walking, rotating the thigh, getting up from a squatting/sitting position and abducting (moving away) the thigh from the hip.
The stretch involves pulling the leg forward to the chest from the knee and ankle. This first stretch can be done either standing or sitting, depending on your flexibility. Just be sure not to push yourself too far and accidentally lose your balance!
Start by bending your leg in front of your body, with the lower leg perpendicular to the upper leg, bent 90 degrees at the knee. Gently hold underneath both the knee and ankle, pulling both toward the chest. Your grip on the ankle should be relatively loose; the grip around the knee is more important in the stretch. Pulling that knee toward the chest is the critical part - start gently and breathe into it, pulling a little closer with each breath. Repeat on both sides of the body. Ideally, you should be able to touch your knee to your chest. Of course, not everyone is that flexible, but that's what regular massage is for!
Repeat this stretch daily, especially first thing in the morning and before bed, for best results. After a few good stretches, you should start to feel your range of motion increase, and hopefully that lower back will open up a bit. But always feel free to make an appointment for a session to have my help loosening up that tension. I'll see you in my Westport office!
April & May Monthly Special
Special 45 Minute Session
Many clients say they would love longer massage therapy session times, but for an economic price. Well, you asked, I answered! This month, I'm offering a special 45-minute session for only $55 (savings of almost 20%!). I normally don't offer a 45 minute session, but if you like it, and would like me to add it to my regular treatment menu, I'm happy to oblige. 45 minutes is plenty of time to work on the back and neck, and include the arms and legs for circulation, if you'd like. So come in any time this month for a special 45 minute session at a special discount! I'll see you in my Westport office!
Healthy Recipe: Mushroom & Blood Orange Stir Fry
This is one of my simplest meatless weeknight meals. The combination of the rich mushrooms, the meaty oyster sauce and the tangy-sweet oranges is incredibly satisfying. In fact, because the sauce is so simple, it actually tastes BETTER the next day, so make extra for tomorrow's lunch! If you can't find blood oranges, I've had similar results with regular oranges and a little lime or grapefruit juice. To make the meal completely vegetarian, use shitake stir fry sauce instead of oyster sauce.
4 tablespoons canola oil (roughly)
2 lbs mixed mushrooms, such as (crimini, shitake, maiitake, etc.), roughly chopped
4 large blood oranges
1 red onion, sliced into half-moon shapes
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (or vegetarian shitake sauce)
6 scallions, thinly sliced
Steamed brown or white rice, for serving
In a large wok or deep pan, saute the mushrooms over high heat, with just enough canola oil to brown, working in batches. There should only be a single layer of mushrooms on the bottom of the pan at one time. As each batch cooks, set aside in a bowl. In the meantime, peel and section the blood oranges and set aside in the same bowl as the cooked mushrooms, if desired. Once all the mushrooms are cooked, saute the red onion with a little more oil, if necessary, until soft and slightly browned. Add the garlic, ginger and scallion, and saute until fragrant. Add the mirin and oyster sauce and saute for about 30 more seconds. Add the mushrooms and oranges back in and cook together for about 2 minutes. Serve over steamed rice and enjoy!
To all my loyal clients:
As of March 1, I've had to raise my rates for all my sessions by $5 each. My carrying costs have increased, and as much as I don't like it, a rate increase is necessary. I still firmly believe that my rates reflect an incredible value for the massage therapy treatments I provide. I feel incredibly fortunate to have such wonderful clients; please know that I hold all of you in the highest esteem and continue to be extremely dedicated to providing you with the very best care possible. Thank you so much for your support thus far, and I hope we can continue in a professional relationship for many years to come. Thank you again!
The Snow Shoveling Workout
To my fellow Fairfield County residents: This has been a tough month. I, for one, never believed I'd be able to drive a car on a road normally again until spring. My driveway and buried car were for me, as I'm sure for most of you, a huge problem as well. The snow has begun melting a bit now, but I've noticed in a lot of my local clients, that shoveling tension remains. In this post, we'll explore a few different stretches, from back and lower body to arms and shoulders, that encompass a nice routine and should help alleviate stress from shoveling all that white stuff. Take your time exploring the stretches, and if one muscle group seems tighter, spend a little more time there. Of course, I can always help you stretch during a session in my Westport office.
Phase 1: Lower body/low back
The simplest stretch, but one that we can often get less than perfect: Touching your toes. Start with your arms high above your head, fold at the waist but sticking your rear out, and with a flat back, reach to the floor. If you find that your hamstrings are too tight to reach the floor or to feel the stretch in your low back, feel free to bend your knees a little bit. Move back up slowly, keeping the back as flat as possible.
Phase 2: Shoulder/upper arm
Reach one arm straight in front of the body, and push it toward the body with the other forearm, above the elbow. Gently use the second arm to pull the first closer to the body. This should stretch out the back of the shoulder and rotator cuff muscles. Repeat with the other arm.
Phase 3: Pecs
Stand in a doorway and hold onto the door jamb with one hand. Slowly pivot your body back so that you are perpendicular to your arm. Try to keep your grip relaxed. Repeat with the other arm.
Phase 4: Forearms
Hold one forearm out in front of your body, palm facing out. Use your other hand to gently pull your fingers closer to your body, stretching the palm side of your arm (extensor muscles). Repeat with the other arm.
Admittedly, these stretches won't affect every muscle in your body that was ravaged by the blizzard, but I think they're a good start. If you still feel some tension you can't pinpoint, I'm sure we can work it out in a massage session in my office. Enjoy!
Many clients come into my office with tension headaches. Some of these headaches are caused by upper neck tension, and some are caused by tension in and around the jaw. In this post, we'll explore how you can release some of the jaw muscles yourself at home. If you catch yourself grinding your teeth at night, or even during a stressful time during the day, give these moves a try. The more you can learn about your own body and it's patterns, the more you can learn how to ease distressful symptoms.
There are about a score of muscles on your face, but two are particularly culpable for jaw tension: Masseter and Lateral Pterygoid. The masseter is the strongest muscle in the body, with a force of up to 200 pounds of pressure on the molars, allowing us to chew and grind. It's relative is the lateral pterygoid, which is directly posterior to it, closer to the ear. Both of these muscles move the jaw at the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ).In many TMJ disorders, these two muscles are tight and not moving properly. The masseter attaches at about the bottom of the cheekbone and the bottom of the jaw; the lateral pterygoid from the TMJ to the sphenoid bone, which you can feel as about the edge of your cheekbone closest to your ear.
Starting at the bottom of your cheekbone, apply gentle pressure starting at about the middle of the cheek and moving toward the ear. Note any specific tender points along this path. Moving to directly in front of the ear, apply a gentle pressure again toward the back of the head; the intent here is to move a little lymph first toward the back of the ear, then directly down, toward the neck. Spend a little time here with the flat part of a few fingers, and note the feeling of a gentle fluid flush – that's your lymph moving.
Now a strange maneuver: Hook your little finger into your ear with your palm facing out. The idea is to feel the attachment of that lateral pterygoid as it lays directly inside the front of your ear. Open and close your jaw a few times to feel the muscle move back and forth, holding a firm pressure against the front of that inner ear. Repeat moving the jaw about 10 times, then remove the finger to release the muscle.
Move to the TMJ itself, the very edge of your jawbone. With two or three fingers and the palm facing out, apply moderate pressure to the joint, while trying to keep your jaw as relaxed as possible. A good visualization is to imagine your jaw touching the floor. Pushing that jaw all the way down helps the joint release.
Move along the bottom of the jawbone, again with palm facing out, applying moderate pressure with two or three fingers. Notice that there may be a number of knotty trigger points here; if you find one, just spend a few extra seconds applying pressure to it, but try not to increase the pressure itself, that may lead to increased tension in the muscles.
Finally, it's been postulated that the motion of yawning both increases oxygen to the brain and stretches the jaw muscles, which are under extreme pressure. If you feel the need to yawn at all while performing these movements, allow your body to stretch the muscles for you. Perform these movements on both side of the face, and remember to keep your pressure on the gentle side.
I'm happy to have helped a number of clients through TMJ disorders. These type of disorders along with neck and should tension can very effectively be addressed in just a 30 minute session, even during your lunch hour! Feel free to call me at my Westport office to schedule an appointment. See you soon!
Research: Massage Therapy Benefits All!
The below article is a round up of several findings by the AMTA (of which I am a member) suggesting that massage therapy can reduce anxiety and improve overall health in people of all ages, even those fighting cancer.
I'm proud that the AMTA continues to conduct research studies in such varied members of the population, regarding massage therapy affecting not only certain pathologies, but general anxiety that we all face every day. And the results are clear: Massage therapy works!
Call or email me today to discuss how beneficial massage therapy can be for you specifically. I'll see you in my Westport office!
Good News x2
I'm reposting these two stories to show how the field of massage therapy is growing and becoming more accepted as part of the health industry.
First, St. Vincent's Hospital in nearby Bridgeport is now offering massage therapy as part of it's oncology program. The cancer program at St. Vincent's is already top-notch, and I'm very happy to share that massage therapy is being added as beneficial for both treatment side effects and stress reduction for cancer survivors. Even relatives of cancer survivors can benefit from the massage therapy treatment (at my Westport office!).
Second, and this is less positive, but still good news, Bridgeport has shut down 10 illegal "massage parlors" this week. This is due to legislation that was recently passed at the state level, allowing for stricter regulation of massage therapy practices and licensure. This is a good step forward for the profession - it's very important for the public to know that massage therapy has NOTHING to do with prostitution, and that even that insinuation is inappropriate. I'm happy to know that police are taking these illegal versions of practices more seriously, as it is a public health and safety issue for these businesses to be eradicated. I'm not aware of any such illegal practices here in Westport, but please, if you become aware of any, let me know. I'm happy to take steps to have these illegal "businesses" closed down and out of our community. Please also note that I am fully licensed at the appropriate state level, and ANY massage therapist you see should be as well.
I'm always happy to share recent news about the massage therapy profession with my clients; there's so much evidence mounting exhibiting how massage therapy is fabulous for you, and can be considered part of the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle.
I'll see you in my Westport office!
Sinus Release - Part II
A few weeks ago, we discussed some acupressure sinus release techniques. Since then, I think more people I know have gotten colds! So this week, we'll explore even more techniques, blending more acupressure, a little lymphatic drainage, and some trigger point work. Try these techniques, and the ones from the previous post, and see which ones work best for you. Remember, every body is very different, and the more you get to know what helps yours, the better you'll feel. (It also helps to come see a professional massage therapist – I'll help you find the “stuck” spots!)
Please click on the below picture to
enlarge it, you'll see dots and arrows. The dots represent points of
pressure, simply press these spots with your thumb or finger, gently
at first, then more firmly if you feel some sinus release. The
arrows represent direction of lymphatic drainage. Very gently press
the circle and push in the direction of the arrow. The pressure used
for this drainage is about 5 grams, or the approximate weight of a
nickel. So remember that the lighter you push, the more effective
the treatment will be.
While the order of pressure on these points isn't critical, I've found that a specific order is a bit more effective. You can, however, learn which points work best on you and do them any time; in line, while sitting in traffic, or before falling asleep. They work so well!
Start by gently pressing the inside corner of your eye toward your nose; you should feel this pressure release almost immediately. Move to your cheek, hooking the bottom of your cheekbone at it's lowest point, and pushing gently toward the top of your head. Take it easy on this point – it can be tender. Move to the area at the top of your jawbone, right in front of your ear, but sill on your cheek. Press this very gently and slowly push down toward your toes. Do this for about 60 seconds, or until you feel the fluid gently draining. If you don't feel fluid movement, ease up on your pressure.
Moving to the back of the head, apply pressure at the two points where your head and neck meet (occipital ridge). This works best if you're laying down with your head on a pillow. You can apply quite of bit of pressure here; these points tend to be tight on everyone. If your thumbs feel uncomfortable, you can use the end of a hairbrush or even a small ball. Loosening up these muscles often releases sinus pressure on the front of the head.
Move to the back of the earlobe: Using your middle finger, hook the top of your finger right along your jawbone, with the tip pressing on the back of your earlobe. Very gently pull down toward your toes; looking for the same fluid movement as on the front of the ears. Take your time in this area as well, only moving on when you feel a little fluid release.
Finally, on the top of the head, there are two points directly to the side of the midline of the skull. For some people, these points are quite close to the front, for others, they are near the back. Explore that side of the midline until you find the points that refer down to your face and sinuses.
Repeat all these points on both sides of the face and head, as many times as you feel necessary until you feel a little pressure release. It can be effective any time, but is most effective when laying down with your head flat.
And if all these points still don't help, come into my office for some more sinus drainage or even a full lymphatic release session. The more you move lymph throughout the body, the better your body will function and the better you'll feel. I'll see you in my Westport office!
Cleaning Up After the Storm
The last few weeks have been tough here in Fairfield County. I consider myself extremely fortunate that both my office in Westport and home in Fairfield were largely unharmed by Hurricane Sandy and the snowstorm the following week. I know not all of my neighbors are as fortunate.
To all my loyal clients regarding the past few weeks: Please feel no guilt about having canceled appointments! I completely understand that family safety takes priority during such a difficult time. Know that whenever you're ready to come in for a little stress reduction, my office is up and running! My server (and therefore website) were down for the time we were without power, but I'm back now and very excited about all the specials I'm planning in the coming months. Stay tuned for more stretches, stress strategies and a gift certificate special in December!
In the meantime, I'm maintaining a lot of flexibility in my schedule for my clients who've had to reschedule their sessions - so even if you'd like a session on the same day that you call or email, I'll do my best to accommodate you. It's not selfish for each of us to take an hour or so to focus on recharging our own mental batteries. In fact, it usually makes us better able to care for the ones around us we love. Take that time to get your regular massage and I promise, you'll never regret it!
Please take care, be safe, and I'll see you in my Westport office!
Sinus Release – Part I
It's the time of year when the snap in temperature starts to make us feel a little crummy. Even if you're fortunate enough to not suffer from seasonal allergies, the weather definitely affects our bodies, especially our sinuses. “Sinus”, in anatomy, just refers to any cavity in the body. Our sinuses begin to feel “swollen” when they are not draining properly. In the next few weeks, we will explore sinus release techniques you can use on yourself if you're feeling a little sinus pain and tension. You can use these techniques both when feeling pressure and when you're not, to learn your own unique pressure points.
The first method we will explore for release is acupressure. This technique is effected by pressure being put on specific points in a specific pattern to “move” bodily fluids. As you practice these points more, you'll notice which is most effective for you. The face and head points are particularly effective for sinus drainage.
The acupressure channel we will partly explore here is the Bladder Channel. It runs from the inner eye up over the forehead to the back of the head, down the back and back of the leg, ending at the little toe.
Click on the graphic below to enlarge, and while looking at it, begin by putting pressure (light at first, moving to a little deeper depending on your pain level) on the inner eye, inner edge of the eyebrow, then forehead directly above those two points. Then move slightly outward (lateral) on the head at your hairline, moving directly backward toward the top of your head, then back of head. You can also use a hairbrush on these head points – it feels amazing! Hold the points for at least 10 seconds, up to a minute each, until you start to feel a pleasing sensation of pressure release.
In the following weeks, we'll explore more techniques for sinus release. Visit often and learn them all! In my Westport office, I hit at least a few of these points in every massage therapy session, because they're so effective on everyone. Enjoy and I'll see you in my Westport office!
Autumn Lymphatic Drainage Special
For the months of October and November I will be offering a special discount on 60 minute lymphatic drainage sessions at a rate of $70 (regularly $85).
Lymphatic drainage promotes movement of lymph throughout the body, a substance that is responsible for proper organ function, simply. If you have a few lymphatic drainage sessions to bolster your immune system before cold & flu season, you will likely experience lessened symptoms of these maladies. While I can't say you won't catch a cold at all, it's worth decreasing the severity of any you might catch, right?
The session itself is quite different from any you are likely to have experienced previously. The touch is very light, not affecting muscles directly. You should wear comfortable loose clothes, including a sport bra and shorts. The actual treatment is not referred to as "massage", because it doesn't affect musculature. Rather, it affects the superficial layer of lymph that is just beneath the skin, but above the muscle. Many people experience the sensation of water flowing through their bodies, which lymph is largely comprised of. Moving lymph freely from one area of the body to all the others helps organs function properly, as it is key to cellular clean up. Notwithstanding the fact that muscles aren't touched, many experience decreased muscular discomfort, because fluid around muscle tissue can flow properly.
If you have any questions about this treatment, please feel free to contact me - I'd love to tell you more about it! Looking forward to seeing you in my Westport office!
Perfecting the Quad Stretch – Part 2
Last week, we discussed the proper pelvical alignment for an effective Quadriceps Femoris group stretch. A great addition to this stretch involves both the Trapezius and Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscles.
Note that the Trap attaches from the first four cervical vertebrae (the very top of the neck) out to the edge of the shoulder girdle. This means that shoulder movement does affect that muscle. The SCM attaches from the mastoid process (edge of the jawbone) to the clavicle and sternum, in a triangular position. Moving the jawbone away from the clavicle and sternum effectively stretches this muscle. So a stretch involving moving both the shoulder girdle and jaw will stretch both of these muscles beautifully.
Begin in the proper quad stretch we learned last week: Put one hand on a fixed surface, hold the opposite ankle with the opposite hand, and lean forward so that your pelvis is straight with your upper leg.
Addition: Move your head and neck in the opposite direction of the raised leg, as far as possible. Play with moving the jaw up and down, moving that SCM attachment. Stay relaxed in your shoulder, and let your leg pull down on your hand, moving that shoulder as far down and to the rear as possible. Breathe into this stretch for a count of 10, slowly release, and repeat on the other side.
This is a fantastic stretch to perform before and after exercising, but also for anyone who may sit most of the day, to bring the trap and neck back into proper function. Enjoy!
Perfecting the Quad Stretch – Part 1
The Quadriceps Femoris muscle group is comprised of some of the largest muscles in the body, each of which we use every single time we take a step. So many clients come into my office for massage therapy, not aware of how tight their Quads actually are until we start working them. The average person takes about 5,000 steps per day – take care of the muscles that are moving you!
In this first Quad post, we'll discuss the proper form for a truly effective Quad group stretch, then next week, I'll show you how to add a twist to stretch out a sore neck and upper back simultaneously.
Four muscles comprise the Quadriceps Femoris group: Rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis and vastus intermedius. All attach from the bottom of the knee cap; the latter three attach from the top of the thigh bone, but the first, rectus femoris, attaches on the pelvis. This is the key attachment site to perform the stretch properly – the stretch must involve both the pelvis and knee moving.
The first image shows how many people stretch the Quads, by simply holding the ankle and pulling on the knee toward the rear. While this will stretch 3 out of 4 muscles in the group, the second image shows how to stretch all 4.
To perform this stretch, put one hand on a stable surface, and use your other hand to hold your ankle and pull it toward your glutes (as in the first image). Then bend forward at the pelvis, aligning your pelvis with your knee (as in the second correct image). The further forward you bend, the more effective the stretch will be. Keep your grip light on the ankle, and don't pull your ankle rapidly – take your time and breathe into it. Repeat 3 times on both sides, taking as long as you need.
Next week, I'll show you how to add a neck stretch which I absolutely love! See you here online or in my Westport office!
Low Back/Hamstring Crossover Stretch
Many clients who come into my office
for a massage complain about low back pain. This is the season for
gardening, sports, and long vacation car rides. All of these, in
addition to the simple act of sitting at a desk all day, can
aggravate the low back. The low back (lumbar/sacral) area is
complicated, because there are a lot of muscles that lie over each
other, and which are difficult to stretch due to the proximity of the
However, I do this stretch every
day, a few times a day; before and after running, and before and
after giving massages. It works to stretch not only the hamstrings,
but most of the low back structures. It takes some time to master,
but know that the intention
of the stretch is what leads to increased flexibility. Don't be
discouraged if you can't do this perfectly the first time, just keep
and most simply, the six muscles included in the hamstring muscle
group attach from about
pelvis to head of the knee. We know they flex the thigh at the knee
toward our backs. Second, and a little more involved, are a few of
the muscles of the low back, attaching to or near the pelvis. For
our purposes here, we'll mention the Quadratus Lumborum, Erector
spinae group and Multifidus. The latter two run the length of the
spine, from the very top of our skull to the sacrum. The first,
“QL”, attaches from the lowest rib to the top of the pelvis.
It's quite a deep muscle, which makes it involved in more active
endeavors, such as running and cycling.
Involving both the hamstring and low back structures at the same time
effectively immobilizes the pelvis on the active side, which allows
both sides of it to be stretched very well. In other words, the
stretch will pin the pelvis and move the muscles away from it on both
sides. It feels great!
Start by putting your left leg up on a
fixed surface that is about the level of your pelvis, such as up on a
stair or desk. Angle your right foot, flat on the ground, about 45
degrees out. Reach your right (opposite) arm up over your head, then
slowly pivot at your pelvis, reaching your hand and arm down toward
the toes of the elevated foot. Ideally, you could reach your hand
past the elevated toes easily, and lower your middle down on to your
elevated leg. Take a deep breath and lean into the stretch for about
10 seconds. Release gently, and repeat on the other side. If you
can't reach your toes the first time (or maybe don't even come
close!) don't be discouraged. Flexibility in the spine takes a long
time to develop, but is completely worth it!
Keep working on your low back
stretching – you'll also find that after a massage therapy session,
this stretch will come much easier. I'd be happy to demonstrate this
stretch for you the next time you're in my Westport office. Enjoy!