My analysis of the latest studies
Study: Comparative study of stretching modalities in healthy women: Heating and application time (www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1360859213002052)
Authors' Conclusion: “A 10-minute stretch, when performed over four subsequent days, is suggested for faster increase in flexibility. The results could suggest a systemic warming (such as the one provided by a treadmill workout) before stretching for an acute gain of flexibility in the same day.”
Analysis: This study was to test the effect on flexibility of passive stretching combined with heat from warming muscles by running on a treadmill, or warming muscles from microwave heat. The study concluded that stretching with either type of heat application was beneficial and yielded a greater range of motion than no stretching at all. The treadmill warming group was more effective than the microwave group, “related to the number of sarcomeres”. Sarcomeres are the molecular units in muscles that move and increase in number with movement of muscles. They are beneficial for both building muscle mass and increasing muscle function. Therefore, although this study was small in scale (only 50 participants), it proves certain principles which are known to affect massage therapy: Stretching generally and warming muscles by using them in exercise are beneficial for flexibility.
Study: Effectiveness of myofascial release: Systematic review of randomized controlled trials (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1360859214000862)
Authors' Conclusion: “The literature regarding the effectiveness of MFR was mixed in both quality and results. Although the quality of the RCT studies varied greatly, the result of the studies was encouraging, particularly with the recently published studies. MFR is emerging as a strategy with a solid evidence base and tremendous potential. The studies in this review may help as a respectable base for the future trials.”
Analysis: This was not a study per-se, but an analysis of previous studies and literature. The conclusion states that effectiveness of MFR could be proven in the future, but more studies are needed. Clinical studies are important for emphasizing the benefits of massage therapy. Until studies are conclusive, we may only take educated guesses at which techniques are useful. I do use MFR techniques in my office, largely because I believe studies will eventually catch up with anecdotal evidence that the techniques are effective.
Study: Transmission of muscle force to fascia during exercise (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1360859214001417)
Authors' Conclusion: “Substantial stress is transmitted to fascia during muscular exercise, which has implications for exercise therapies if they are designed for fascial as well as muscular stress. This adds additional perspective to myofascial force transmission research.”
Analysis: This is a great, simple overview of how fasica affects muscle, which I am asked about all the time. Clients often ask if fascia affects muscle and vice versa, and the answer is yes. One cannot function without the other, and this study shows that fascial stress is transmitted to muscles during exercise, which is why MFR (as noted above) is needed in the first place. This is a good reminder that massage therapy is especially important as exercise levels increase.
I'm always happy to talk to clients about the latest research! It's exciting to note how science proves and disproves certain methods; I'm always striving to keep up with the latest efficient techniques. I'll see you in my Westport office!
This soup is the perfect hug on a cold evening! The mushrooms and bok choy jump start your body's systems to keep everything healthy. The spice helps keep sinuses clear. You can also make the won tons by themselves, steam them, and serve them as appetizers or as a light meal with a salad. They can be frozen on individual sheet pans, then steamed from frozen, or warmed in the soup as you wish. This is a meatless option, but to make it completely vegetarian, you can substitute vegetarian shitake mushroom sauce and vegetarian stock.
1 Tablespoon canola oil
6 oz mixed mushrooms (cremini, shitake, etc.)
4 oz baby bok choy
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
20-30 won ton wrappers
1 small red onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 small chile, minced
1/2 cup sake
1 quart beef stock
1 quart water
3 scallions, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Make the won tons: In a large soup pot, heat the canola oil over high heat. When hot, add the mushrooms and toss to coat. Leave the mushrooms alone in the pot to brown.
In the meantime, cut the bok choy: Cut off the green leaves in one large piece, set aside. Cut the light green stems into smaller, 1/4” slices. When the mushrooms are browned, add the bok choy stems to the pan. Toss to coat. Add the oyster sauce and let cook for about 4 minutes, or until the flavors are melded and the mushrooms have cooked completely. Taste for seasoning, although it shouldn't need salt because the oyster sauce is pretty well flavored. Remove from the pot and set aside to cool.
Make the soup: In the same pot, add a little extra oil, if needed, and the red onions. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to help them soften. After about 3 minutes, add the garlic and chile. Let cook until the onions are completely softened, about 5-7 minutes total. Add the sake to deglaze the pot, scraping all the bits off the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add the beef stock and water and bring to a simmer.
Make the won tons: The mushroom mixture should be cool enough to handle by now, so form the mixture into the won tons skins as you wish, using water to seal the edges. (I generally form them into half circles, burrito style wraps, or squares, depending on how fancy I like to get.) Form all the won tons before dropping them into the soup.
When all the won tons are complete, raise the temperature of the soup to a boil, and start dropping them in gently, stirring after each to be sure they don't stick together. Boil until the won tons skins are translucent and completely cooked, stirring often. Drop in the bok choy greens, and scallions and stir again. Taste for seasoning and serve hot.
My absolute favorite 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 pelvis bone.
However, I do this stretch every day, a few times a day; before and after exercising, 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 trying!
First, and most simply, the six muscles included in the hamstring muscle group attach from about the 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 torso 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 you aren't even 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!