Pain is a Request for Change

Few things are as distressing as chronic pain.  It saps your energy and takes an emotional toll.  Over time, a vicious pain cycle develops, one that seems to have a life of it’s own, often persisting even after the original cause is resolved.

chronic pain

Our bodies were created to be self-healing dynamos, given the right tools.  But, often, we’re so distracted by life that we’re not paying the attention to our bodies that they deserve, and we don’t provide the tools our bodies need to avoid postural distortion and developing pain syndromes.

Amazingly, though, making just a few simple changes in your life will set you up to once again live a pain-free life.

Pain often develops with injury or illness.  Chronic pain develops when the complex interplay between the Central Nervous System and the Peripheral Nervous System is upset.  Each element of pain – especially stress – can add to or even start the cycle.

The current medical model in this country advises that pain medications are considered the last line of defense in the increasingly common fight again chronic pain.  The most commonly prescribed medications for pain management are prescription grade anti-inflammatories, opioids and anti-seizure medications.  All have severe side effects, up to and including death, which often further degrade your quality of life. 

Manual therapies have been proven to be more effective tool in pain and stress management than medications.  It’s been in use since mankind’s beginning.  Haven’t you used mechanical pressure to relieve pain – stretching an aching back or rubbing an area that hurts?  Research shows that massage stimulates the release of natural pain-relievers such as endorphins and reduces the devastating grip of pain on your body.

When I first met George, he literally vibrated with tension and pain.  George suffered with a nerve entrapment causing pain that most days exceeded 10/10 and was nearly suicidal.  The traditional medical approach was to surgically sever the nerve (a short term answer at best as nerves regenerate over time) and physical therapy made his pain worse.  Working together and using a multi-dimensional approach, we were able to restore his life and lifestyle with pain levels which have maintained below 2/10 now for several years – a more than 80% reduction in pain!

Using the food you eat to support your body, instead of eating for dis-ease, will also help reduce pain levels by reducing inflammation.  Discover the foods you’re allergic or sensitive to, and correct the adverse affect those foods have on your system.  Eliminate the foods from your diet that contribute to dis-ease; eliminate and purge the effects of chemicals, heavy metals, pesticides and herbicides from your body.  Learn how to eat to balance your pH and to eat for health.

Christine’s case illustrates the dramatic effect diet can have on the body.  Christine suffers with arthritic degeneration of her spine, and came to me when her back pain ratcheted up to the 7-8/10 range and was interfering with her retirement lifestyle.  After a thorough assessment, it became clear that inflammation was a major contributor to her pain.  Just a few tweaks to her diet, and her inflammation was dramatically reduced, which brought her pain levels back to a manageable level (3/10 and below), allowing her preferred lifestyle to resume.

Our bodies were built to move, not sit behind a desk 40 hours a week, then behind the wheel of our car another 10 or more hours a week, sit to eat, sit to read, sit to watch television, sit to play games . . . The average American now sits 13 hours every day.  No wonder chronic pain is becoming epidemic!

I wish I could tell you that the simple solution is a certain number of hours at the gym 3 times per week, after all exercise is exercise, right?  I’m afraid not.  Once pain develops, you already have musculoskeletal imbalances, and it takes an expert to unravel the influences that contribute to those imbalances. 

A recent case study of mine really illustrates this truth:  Bob was referred to me when his back pain was so severe, he could no longer stand up straight or work.  Bob, a middle-aged “gym rat”, had unwittingly been continuing a work-out routine that was making his symptoms worse.  But, by using an approach of manual therapies combined with functional and corrective exercise, Bob could stand erect after just two sessions; after 8 sessions, he was balanced, pain free and back to work.  Before you hit the gym with pain, get properly diagnosed and have a plan to overcome the imbalances.

My clients know me as the go-to person when allopathic medicine fails.  When allopathic medical treatments fail, my clients come to me to help them devise a plan to address their complaints in a natural way, often without the need for medications or surgery.  It IS possible to unravel the unwanted influences on your body and regain your health.

Janet Lawlor is a holistic practitioner, Board Certified Bodywork Therapy, posture and pain specialist and a chronic pain survivor.  Janet is also a certified Yoga instructor and certified in Functional and Corrective Exercise.  She continues to train in techniques to help others overcome their chronic pain.  Her focus is on reducing pain, improving mobility and restoring quality of life.

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Stress Kills

We’ve all heard it, it’s been all over the news lately, and the more science delves into the physiological reactions in our bodies, the more it’s realized that:  Stress does kill.

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It’s not really stress itself that does so much damage, it’s our response to stress.   For that reason, it is vitally important that in tough times you keep up whatever stress reduction programs work best for you, whether it’s running, Yoga, kickboxing, or getting regular massage sessions.

Times are tough right now.   Stress from money concerns is one of the biggest of all stressors and affects your relationships with family, co-workers and friends.

It’s not possible to cut all stress out of your life, and we don’t need to.   Stress, of itself, is not the bad guy; it’s our response to stress that can be so deadly.   Let’s examine what occurs in your body when it’s stressed out:

How Stress Affects the Brain

Stress creates excessive levels of cortisol in the brain, leading to the destruction of neurons, decreased short term and contextual memory and poor regulation of the hormonal response to stress.

How Stress Affects the Immune System

Stress affects the immune system by increasing sympthetic activity and decreasing cellular immunity.   Immune cells migrate to different parts of the body and can worsen autoimmune and allergic conditions.   Over time, this suppresses the body’s ability to fight off infection.

How Stress Affects the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Systems

The effects of stress can create significant damage to the cardiovascular system by increasing the risk of coronary artery disease, elevating blood pressure, increasing artherosclerosis (fat deposits in blood vessel walls), increasing the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack), increasing the risk of diabetes and increasing the likelihood of obesity.

The Physiological Response to Stress

Seventy-five to ninety percent of all doctors visits are due to stress-related ailments and disorders.   Chronic stress leads to an out of balance biochemistry with elevated cortisol and suppressed serotonin.   The biochemical markers of stress in turn lead to ill health.   Stress plays a major causative role in both physical and mental health.

Stress has been linked to:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Breakdowns in the immune system
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Cardiovascular disease

How Massage Helps

Some of the benefits of massage include

  • Stabilizing your nervous system
  • Decreasing pain
  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Decreasing anxiety and depression
  • Increasing your energy and endurance
  • Increasing your strength and resilience
  • Improving the functioning of your nervous system
  • Improving your body’s ability to detoxify
  • Improving sleep
  • Improving posture, range of motion and flexibility
  • Improving dexterity and fine motor skills
  • Improving balance
  • Improving attention span, concentration, memory, creativity and learning efficiency

Massage increases the oxygen levels in your brain, keeps your internal organs functioning their best and nurtures your skin, all of which helps to slow the aging process.

Stress sneaks up on all of us.  Before you know it, you’ve got tight muscles or reduced range of motion from muscle tension.  The most common reaction I get from my massage clients is “I feel like a new woman/man.  I had no idea all that was going on in my body.”  

Regular massage sessions will play a huge part  in how healthy you are, how healthy you’ll be and how youthful you’ll remain with each passing year.   Budgeting time and money for bodywork at consistent intervals is truly an investment in your health.  Massage is much more than feeling good for the moment.   The effects of massage are cumulative – the more often you receive massage, the more your health benefits.

Stress, Humor and Massage

Laugh

Have you ever noticed that when you lose your sense of humor, life becomes so much more difficult?  The element that most contributes to the loss of humor is stress.  Stress from relationships, stress from your job, stress from life.

In order to maintain balance in our lives and in our relationships, we need to maintain our humor.  My own first line of defense against loss of humor is a really good 90-minute stress-busting massage!

A healthy lifestyle is an essential companion to any stress reduction program.  You can enhance your general health and stress resistance by getting regular exercise, “eating the rainbow” and avoiding excessive alcohol, caffeine and tobacco.

Exercise in combination with stress management techniques is extremely important: as an effective distraction from stressful events, and by directly blunting the harmful effects of stress on blood pressure and protect the heart. 

Research shows that humor is a very effective mechanism for coping with acute stress.  Keeping a sense of humor during difficult situations is a common recommendation of stress management experts.  Laughter not only releases the tension of pent-up feelings and helps a person maintain perspective, but it also appears to have actual physical effects that reduce stress hormone levels.

Making a plan and do your best to execute it successfully.  But, when you feel your balance or sense of humor slipping, it’s time to get in for some table time.  If a stress-busting massage isn’t helping as much as you feel it should, it may be time to schedule a holistic health consultation where we’ll examine your diet, exercise, stress levels and stress management to create a plan to better serve you.

Treating Knee Pain with Bodywork Therapies

The formation of adhesive scar tissue in the tendons, ligaments and joints is often the primary culprit in long-term pain. Although muscles get injured most frequently, they also heal more easily. Tendons, ligaments and joints, on the other hand, often take months or years to heal and often stay injured for a lifetime.

An injury is present when there is tissue damage. The damage could manifest as a swelling in a bursa or a joint; pinching of a nerve or a tendon; micro-tears in a muscle, tendon, ligament or fascia; or a major disruption of tissue like a broken bone or a ruptured tendon. When there is an injury, a part of the body has lost its structural integrity and is broken in some way.

Knee pain

When musculo-skeletal structures are damaged or torn, the body’s wisdom ensures that the damage, whenever possible, will be repaired. However, to a large extent the degree and quality of this repair depend upon our own participation. The natural mechanisms of inflammation and wound healing are usually excessive for the job at hand. The body over-compensates when it responds to injury. More plasma, red and white cells, blood platelets and chemical mediators are released than are actually needed to allow full healing to occur. Therefore, additional scar tissue is likely to form. This scar tissue often binds together damaged and undamaged structures, resulting in adhesions that can lead to re-injury and to chronic pain.

There are several methods by which we can help the body limit the formation of adhesive scar tissue and/or recover from adhesions that have already formed. Friction and range of motion exercises allow healthy tissue to grow without the reformation of adhesions.  If the injured person is able to collaborate with the body’s healing processes by adequate physical movement, complete healing is more likely. If the person is unable to perform the required exercises by him or herself, it is important to have a therapist assist the person in a full range of motion of the injured part.

Even knee replacement surgery doesn’t guarantee complete knee pain relief. Before and after surgery, sufferers may notice stiffness, decreased mobility and other painful symptoms in their knees. Massage techniques can alleviate some of these symptoms and increase flexibility, both before and after knee replacement surgery.

Recovery after surgery

Knee replacement surgery recovery varies for everyone. The length of time it takes to recover from this jarring procedure depends upon many different factors, not the least of which is the type of surgery performed. New technologies provide lots of different knee replacement surgery options, and many physicians perform partial knee replacement surgeries that are less invasive than total replacement procedures. But even the most effective surgeries will not provide total and permanent knee pain relief, and ongoing therapy may be necessary for many sufferers.

Massaging the pain away

Massage techniques can help to provide knee pain relief when utilized on a regular basis to keep the new joint mobile, flexible and comfortable, and will compliment any other therapies you are receiving, such as physical therapy.

Yoga to help your knees heal

Years of compensation patterns coupled with the lack of proper stretching (and of course, neglecting the scar tissue) result in limitations of movement.

Many people engage in habitual physical activities that contribute to pain. The love for a sport may override the initial whisper of a pain, until that whisper becomes a scream.

When addressing any injury, it is valuable to also address the joints above and below. Nothing could be truer than with the knee. Opening and strengthening the hips in every direction is important for even distribution of weight. After just a few short sessions range of motion and functionality increases while pain decreases, and you may even choose to sit cross-legged!

One of my greatest rewards as both a Board Certified Bodywork Therapist and a Yoga instructor is assisting clients to keep their sport of choice in their lives by prepping their bodies with sport specific healing movements and self-care strategies.

Why Everyone Needs a Massage

Bodywork therapies can help correct the postural imbalances, nerve impingements, inflammation in the tissues and trigger points caused by overuse of these thechnological wonders, as well as reducing the symptoms caused by nerve compression due to improper posture. 

From smartphones to tablets to laptop computers, you can’t look anywhere today without seeing someone on one of these devices and sometimes more than one.  I constantly see the postural issues related to using these devices which will eventually cause pain.

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Narrow keyboards cause strain on the hands and wrists.  Improperly carrying a laptop can cause neck, shoulder and arm pain.  The manner in which smartphone and tablets are held can also cause problems.  In order to relieve strain in one area, you may be causing strain in another.  Placing the device at a good height to avoid neck strain, for instance, can mean straining the arms as they elevate a tablet or smartphone to eye level; but lowering the device to protect the arms can compromise the neck through excessive flexion.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome are two issues that people in an office setting may face and, with these conditions, come a variety of symptoms that massage therapy can help relieve – pain being but one.  “Pain, fatigue, weakness, and stiffness in the affected areas are the most common symptoms of these injuries,” explains Deborah Kimmit, a massage therapist and educator from Missoula, Montana.  “Numbness and tingling, as well as trigger point referrals are also common.”

Along with overuse, Kimmit also sees poor posture being the cause of painful conditions affecting the neck, shoulder and back.  “For example, a forward head posture can lead to neck pain as the person unconsciously reaches forward with the head to better see the screen,” she says.  Additionally, improper posture can sometimes be the result of other conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome.  “Sometimes, improper posture occurs because the body is trying to find a comfortable position,” Kimmit says.

Bodywork therapies can help correct the postural imbalances, nerve impingements, inflammation in the tissues and trigger points caused by overuse of these thechnological wonders, as well as reducing the symptoms caused by nerve compression due to improper posture.  These imbalances are not limited to the neck, shoulder and arms, but are widespread throughout the pelvic girdle, abdomen, the low back, mid back and shoulder girdles as well as the arms, upper back and neck, sometimes even the legs will be involved.

Knowing which muscles to release, which to stimulate, and which to leave alone is key to correcting these postural imbalances.  

If you are having problems from overusing your computer, laptop, smartphone, tablet or even your gaming console, perhaps it’s time to schedule a session to find out what can be done to help you.  

Call now to schedule!  (619) 818-5397.

 

Preventing the Damaging Effects of Stress

Managing stress and overcoming its affects are critical for achieving and maintaining optimal health.  My mantra has always been:  Eat well, exercise properly and manage your stress for optimal health.

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Eat a well-rounded whole food diet full of fresh (preferably organic) fruits and vegetables, staying away from packaged, prepared and genetically modified foods, and drinking plenty of clean, filtered water.

Exercise for balance, as well as strength and cardio.  Our bodies and nervous systems were designed for movement.  Humans are unique in our ability to stand up and walk around on two legs.  In order to accomplish that, our spines curve in and out which allows us to balance in an upright stance.  Advances in technology, however, require many of us to sit far too much and use our bodies in ways that were never intended causing repetitive strain disorders and muscular imbalances which cause skeletal imbalances.  So, when you exercise, it’s important to balance the muscles used repetitively by focusing on their counterparts.  Or cross train.

Stress management is a huge subject, because the causes of stress are so complex.  Stress comes in many forms: physical, mental and emotional.  Physical stress can be caused by such things as poor diet, injuries and environmental factors such as smog.  Mental stress may come from your job, and emotional stress may come from relationships, or even a buildup of other types of stress in the body.  The important thing to remember is that the body itself does not differentiate between the various types of stress – all of it is handled in exactly the same way: stored in your tissues somewhere.

The first step to controlling stress is to know and recognize the symptoms of stress.  But recognizing stress symptoms may be harder than you think.  Most of us are so used to being stressed, we often don’t know we are stressed until we’re at the breaking point.

And, while a little stress every now and then is nothing to be concerned about, ongoing, chronic stress, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems.

We all experience some form of stress in life.  Mental tensions, frustrations, and insecurity cause the most damage.  Hormones released by stress shrink the vessels inhibiting circulation.  A stressed mind and body means the heart works harder.  Breathing becomes rapid and shallow and digestion slows.  Nearly every bodily process is degraded.  Studies show stress can cause migraines, high blood pressure, depression, etc.  In fact, researchers estimate 80% or more of disease is stress related.

And yet, the antidote to stress is readily and easily available:  Massage Therapy.  Massage helps counteract the effects of stress.  Massage knows no age limits.  It works wonders on the young, the old and the in-between.  It can be especially helpful for the elderly experiencing the effects of aging which can include thinner and drier skin, reduced tissue elasticity, loss of mobility, slower nervous system response, decreased bone mass, sleeplessness, constipation, and a less efficient immune system.

Getting a massage does you a world of good.  Getting frequent massage does even more!  This is the beauty of bodywork.  Taking part in this form of regularly scheduled self-care can play a huge part in how healthy you’ll be and how youthful you’ll remain with each passing year.  Budgeting time and money for bodywork at consistent intervals is truly an investment in your health.  As a wise man has said “The best time to start taking care of yourself was 20 years ago, the second best time is now.”

How Hypertension Affects your Health

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often called a “silent disease” because you usually don’t know that you have it. There may be no symptoms or signs. Nonetheless, it damages the body and eventually may cause problems like heart disease

hypertension

It’s important to regularly monitor your blood pressure, especially if yours has ever been high or above the “normal” range, or if you have a family history of hypertension. Because hypertension can cause heart disease, you may also need to be tested for heart disease.

Measuring Blood Pressure

You can get your blood pressure measured by a health care provider, at a pharmacy or you can purchase a blood pressure monitor for your home.

Blood pressure is measured in two ways: systolic and diastolic.

  • Systolic blood pressure is the pressure during a heartbeat.
  • Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure between heartbeats.

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and is written systolic over diastolic (for example, 120/80 mm Hg, or “120 over 80”). According to the most recent guidelines, a normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg. Pre-hypertension consists of blood pressure that is 120-139/80-89. Blood pressure that is 140/90 or greater is high blood pressure, or hypertension.

Blood pressure may increase or decrease, depending on your age, heart condition, emotions, activity, and the medications you take. One high reading does not mean you have the diagnosis of high blood pressure. It is necessary to measure your blood pressure at different times while resting comfortably for at least five minutes to find out your typical value.

In addition to measuring your blood pressure, you need to take into account your medical history (whether you’ve had heart problems before), assess your risk factors (whether you smoke, have high cholesterol, diabetes etc.), and your family history (whether any members of your family have had high blood pressure or heart disease).

If you suspect you have high blood pressure, you need to consult your doctor.  If heart disease is suspected, your doctor may recommend other tests, such as:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG): A test that measures the electrical activity, rate, and rhythm of your heartbeat via electrodes attached to your arms, legs, and chest. The results are recorded on graph paper.
  • Echocardiogram:   This is a test that uses ultrasound waves to provide pictures of the heart’s valves and chambers so the pumping action of the heart can be studied and measurement of the chambers and wall thickness of the heart can be made.
  • Cardiac stress test: During this test you may exercise on a stationary bicycle or treadmill to increase your heart rate while EKG readings are taken. A stress test can also be combined with an echocardiogram or nuclear medicine X-ray to get additional information.
  • Cardiac catheterization: A catheter, a small flexible tube, is inserted into the femoral artery in your groin or one of the arteries in your arm and guided to the coronary arteries. Your doctor can locate any blockages in the arteries and can also observe pressure and blood flow in the heart.
  • Ultrasound: High-frequency sound waves are used to look for blockages in blood vessels in the neck (carotid arteries) or other parts of your body.

Prevent Hypertension with Regular Massage

Stress reactions require major rerouting of blood throughout the body. This is largely controlled by the speed of the heart rate and the tightness or looseness of the various arteries (the tubes that carry blood away from the heart). So the cardiovascular system is particularly sensitive to changes when we’re under stress, and it suffers when that stress is prolonged.

There are many stress-related disorders of the cardiovascular system, and many of these problems are closely interrelated. In other words, having one cardiovascular problem can greatly increase your risk of having others.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a situation where the arteries are chronically tight, rather than flexible and elastic. Having them tighten down increases the force with which blood moves through them, just as squeezing your thumb over a garden hose increases the force with which the water moves through it. Long-term consequences of untreated high blood pressure are very serious; arteries become prone to damage (atherosclerosis), which will raise the risk of blood clots and heart attacks or stroke.

All of these are life-threatening problems that can be prevented or ameliorated by taking action to reduce stress in your life.  Daily exercise, regular massage therapy, and good nutrition contribute a great deal to lessening your stress while prolonging your life.  Swedish massage has been shown to reduce blood pressure, while sports massage and trigger point therapy raised blood pressure.