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Diana Remaley, LMT
Diana@RemaleyMassage.com
(203)292-5362
22 Crescent Road
Westport, CT

Ankle Circles

Many clients schedule appointments in my office because of "calf pain." While the lower leg ("calf" doesn't have a large number of muscles, it is a very mobile area (we use it while we walk and even activate it often while we're laying down). Since strengthening the calf and ankle is often counterintuitive to pain, this stretch will explore increasing ankle agility, which can often result in a feeling of decreased pain. While this won't replicate the muscle release we feel during massage therapy, it's a wonderful practice to maintain ankle and lower leg health.

Anatomy Lesson:

I won't list all the lower leg muscles in this post, but rather just show this image of the back and front of the lower leg. The pink areas in the image are muscles; the light pink and white areas are tendons and ligaments. Tendons attach a muscle to a bone, and ligaments attach a bone to a bone. As you can see, your ankle and foot have quite a number of tendons and ligaments. Keeping these limber and soft with movement is a way to not only avoid future injury, but also move the lower leg muscles through their entire ranges of motion, rather than the simple step/push-off motion we use when we take a step.

When that single motion is only ever used, the lower leg can get into a habit of only using one or two muscles as we walk, when it should be using all of them.

The motions of the ankle are named as follows, and the degrees listed are typical ranges of motion (while sitting):

    • Toes pointed up: "Dorsiflexion" - 15-20 degrees
    • Toes pointed down: "Plantarflexion" - 30-50 degrees
    • Toes pointed out: "Eversion" - 15-20 degrees
    • Toes pointed in: "Inversion" - 30-50 degrees

I'm listing the ranges of motion so you don't try to push your ankle too far while performing this stretch; plantarflexion and inversion have the most motion, while dorsiflexion and eversion don't have much motion at all. DON'T FORCE YOUR JOINT BEYOND COMFORT.

The Stretch:

Keep the title of this movement in mind while you're doing it: "ANKLE CIRCLES." Very simply, you're moving the toes in as big a circle as you can, while keeping the ankle and lower leg completely still. Try to imagine drawing a circle in the air with your big toe.

While sitting, begin by pointing your toes down (plantarflexion). Try to keep your toes relaxed, and slowly move the foot into eversion, pointing the toes out. Keep moving in a circle to dorsiflexion (pointing up), and finally inversion (pointing in). You're only drawing as big a circle as possible with your toes, which sounds really easy, but is actually quite challenging!

When you've drawn a smooth circle in one direction, reverse it, starting in dorsiflexion, moving to inversion, plantarflexion, eversion and ending at dorsiflexion again.

If you notice tension or pain at any point while you're making the circles, pause for a moment and hold that position. You should notice the tension release when you give that area extra attention.

You can perform this motion one foot at a time to start, then both feet together when you get the hang of it. You will likely notice that your feet are not identical in motion - this is completely normal. Just as feet can be different sizes, they can have different ranges of motion. You can try to make them a little more even by performing a few more circles on the foot that has less range of motion, and by doing your ankle circles more frequently.

I perform this stretch constantly - I mean, while, I'm sitting in my office waiting for clients, under a desk, or under the table while I'm eating! As long as you respect your ranges of motion, you really can't overdo it.

While this stretch won't mimic the results of a massage therapy session, it can certainly aid you in keeping your ankles supple. So when you're ready for your calves to really be loosened, make an appointment in my Westport office. In the meantime, draw those circles!

Guilt-Free Chocolate Granola

I admit it - I have a chocolate problem. A day doesn't feel complete unless I've tasted a little cocoa. But all the butter and sugar typically involved in the candy doesn't make me feel very well; and it's certainly not good long-term. Enter this granola: It's gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free. BUT it has a chocolate taste I can definitely rally around. You can add a few fresh or dried berries to freshen it up and kick up the health factor even more. I like it served with a little non-dairy milk or yogurt for breakfast, or just eaten out of the container with my hands!

 

Ingredients

3 cups rolled oats (gluten-free, not quick-cooking)

1 1/2 cups mixed nuts (I use walnuts, sliced almonds and hazelnuts, but use your favorites)

1/4 cup canola oil (or coconut oil, melted)

1/2 cup agave

2 Tablespoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

1 egg white

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300F. Prepare a baking tray with either parchment paper or a non-stick silpat liner.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats and nuts.

 

In a small glass measuring container, measure out the oil, agave, vanilla, cocoa powder and pinch of salt, *but don't mix them yet*.

 

In a small, non-reactive bowl (such as copper, glass or metal), place the egg white. Using an electric whisk (or just your own arm strength), whip the egg white to a hard peak. It should be very voluminous and stand on the edge of the whisk when you pick it up.

Then, using the same whisk, thoroughly combine the cocoa mixture. (You cannot attempt to whisk the egg white with any fat on the whisk; it'll never whip. But using the same whisk to mix the cocoa and oil is perfectly fine.)

 

 

Add the cocoa mixture to the oats and nuts and toss to combine completely. There should be no oats or nuts that aren't covered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gently fold in the egg white, being careful not to deflate it, and leaving plenty of "opaqueness" on the oats. That is, you should be able to see the dark brown of the chocolate, but see the egg whites laying on top of it, a little bit like frost on your windshield.

Carefully lay the oat mixture on to the prepared baking sheet in a single layer, being careful not to push the egg whites down too much.

Bake for about 60 minutes (no need to toss the mixture.) It's done when the edges turn brown and crisp. Cool completely before eating; it will harden and crisp fully as it cools.

Enjoy with milk, yogurt, berries, or just with your hands!

The Angel Wall Stretch

Stretch your upper back and shoulders any where!

We rightly have our arms down at our sides almost all the time. While our shoulder joints can handle this stress, some of our muscles may fight against laying softly (stress, anyone?) and the shoulder joint can therefore hurt quite a bit. This stretch can be done any time, any where, to bring awareness to the shoulder joint (specifically, the medial border of the scapula(shoulderblade)). If you find yourself hunching your shoulders and dropping them throughout the day, I'm betting this stretch will be quite nice for you.

Anatomy Lesson:

It's worth defining some semantics before we begin: The "Shoulder" joint in anatomy refers to the glenohumeral joint; that is the "ball and socket" of your upper arm and shoulderblade. However, when clients come to my office complaining of "shoulder" pain, this is almost never the area they are describing. What we colloquially refer to as "shoulder" is often the Trapezius muscle ("Trap"). As you can see from the illustration, this is actually a huge muscle that attaches as the base of the skull, out to the edge of the shoulderblade, and back down the thoracic spine. The white areas around the shoulderblades in this picture represent the edge of the scapulas; it is this area of the trap that we are stretching with this movement.

 

As you can see in this picture, we are attempting to move the shoulderblade trap attachments in an outward and upward motion. This is a motion they almost never go through, and therefore feels like an amazing stretch!

 

 

The Stretch:

Begin standing against a wall, with your shoulderblades COMPLETELY flat against it. Your lower back can and should arch away from the wall a bit, but your entire upper back and head should be pressed against it. Hold your lower arms out at your sides.

 

 

 

 

Slowly and methodically raise your arms slowly up above your head, ALL THE WHILE KEEPING YOUR UPPER BACK COMPLETELY PRESSED AGAINST THE WALL. This pressure is the critical part of the stretch; your shoulderblades are going to want to pull away, using bigger muscles as support. Don't let them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The stretch is finished when your arms are completely above your head, and your shoulderblades AND ELBOWS are firmly pressed against the wall. This is where your body will try to compensate: pulling your elbows out away from the wall. If you notice them kicking out, gently push them back flat against the wall.

Hold the stretch for at least 20 seconds, then slowly lower your arms and repeat.

This stretch should move your traps though a range of motion they almost never go through, so you may find it difficult. Your traps move in so many ways and are used so much, I'm sure this stretch will relax them and give you more insight into how they help your upper body function.

As always, if you're noticing pain or discomfort, or if the stretch doesn't help, I can always lead you in the right direction during your next massage therapy session. I'll see you in my Westport office!

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Diana Remaley, LMT
Diana@RemaleyMassage.com
(203)292-5362
22 Crescent Road
Westport, CT