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Monthly Archives: December 2010

What is a “Knot”?

Knots in the muscle are commonly either “hypertonicities” or “contractures” and the better we understand the difference, the better we help the body repair itself.

A muscle at rest has a small amount of fibers contracting and relaxing throughout the muscle in order to maintain “healthy tone”. The nerves control which fibers contract and relax and keep the activity well spread out through the muscle. At the muscle fiber level there are nutrients required for contraction and relaxation of the tissue. Transportation of these nutrients to and from the tissue is very important and the job of the blood and lymph system. All these factors are essential for the health of the muscle.

A hypertonicity occurs when the nerves fire too frequently to an area of the muscle.

When this happens the muscle fibers affected do not get a chance to fully relax and remain in a semi-contracted state. If this is prolonged then fatigue also sets in. A hypertonicity can also occur when the nutrients that allow a muscle to cease contracting are not present and the muscle fibers become locked in a either shortened or lengthened position. Both these scenarios can occur as a result of poor nutrition, dehydration, lack of stretching, poor circulation or repetitive use of a muscle.

A contracture occurs in the fascia and connective tissues of the body.

The body builds a natural band-aid over damaged fibers to protect that area while the tissues heal, this band-aid is often referred to as scar tissue. The body’s natural design is for that scar tissue to stretch out with daily movement, unfortunately we often don’t move enough for this. The tissues underneath the scar may be healthy but the scar sits on top and intertwines with the healthy tissues preventing it from functioning properly. The muscle fibers may not be able to contract or relax fully, the scar may wrap around the blood supply and lymph drainage to the area or can affect the nerve signals as well. Contractures can occur after a surgery, after an accident, with bruising or as a result of postural strains.

A massage therapist is an expert at identifying different types of “knots” and knows the best ways to treat them to get the longest lasting results.

Great resources for health!

Over the years, I have read many books in regards to health, nutrition, and fitness. While many have been duds (it seems like the majority of them are), there are a few that stand out. Listed below are a few that have stood out in my mind as good resources for people and they can be ordered or purchased online.

The Permanent Pain Cure

The Permanent Pain Cure is an excellent all-in-one resource for anyone wishing to regain their health and stop their cycle of pain. It highlights pain management from an Osteopathic point of view, using specific fascia stretches to improve the mobility of specific areas of the body. There is also a section dealing with strength training and makes use of kettle-bells that develop strength in a slightly different way.

ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running

If the barefoot running craze has taught us anything, it’s that SOME of us really do have a terrible running gait. While this book doesn’t focus on running barefoot, it really does have us explore the running style that the shoe-free movement recommends. It has basic stretches, and simple exercises that helps turn your running style into an effortless journey.

The New Rules of Lifting: Six Basic Moves for Maximum Muscle

Weight training is a fantastic addition to a healthy lifestyle, but only when done in a logical fashion. Typically, people decide to ‘Go to the gym’ without actually thinking about what they will be doing when they get there. Save yourself the hassle, and get a productive program, and change your body. This is a great book that has a years worth of programs and the detailed pictures and instructions for each exercise.

The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess

While weight training for women isn’t as dramatically different as many people think, it isn’t a bad idea to take a look at weight training from the perspective of the other sex. This is a great resource for women who want to add weight training into their exercise routine. It dispels some of the myths involved with weight training and even has a section specifically for nutrition.

The best things to do after a massage

Go for a walk
Walking is a great way to help the body re-educate itself to the changes that have been encouraged upon it through the treatment.

Maintain hydration
The body is highly composed of water, ranging from 50-70%, depending on the source. Naturally, hydration is important to our health at all times, not just after a massage.

No hard exercise or training
Especially if you have had fascia work, mobilizations or manipulations performed. The stability of the area has been altered (in a good way) and performing heavy exercise can be detrimental to the re-education process.

Epsom salt bath
Taking a hot bath with epsom salts has been shown to be beneficial for pain management. Epsom salts have been shown to be absorbed through the skin and help reduce muscle aches. The heat of the water helps further by increasing blood flow by opening blood vessels. Please bear in mind that during acute pain, this may not be a good solution and ice packs would be a better choice. You could try a cold bath or shower instead of ice packs, but nobody ever seems to want to try that. I wonder why…

Do your stretches or exercises
There is a reason you were told to do them. It’s because they are good for you. Whether it is to reduce tension to an area, stimulate weak links, or re-educate the body, it is important that your do your exercises. But keep the intensity down, as heavy exercise can be counter-productive.

Moist heat
Use some moist heat if advised by the therapist. This can help with chronic aches and reduce fascia tension, helping the body re-educate itself.

Ice or cool
Use cold or cool compresses on sore areas. The use of ice is beneficial in the reduction of pain and inflammation. If you are told to ice, be sure to ice. Ignoring the advice of your therapist can result in pain to the area.

I hope this quick list of helpful hints will help everyone in their post-massage recovery. It is, after all, about you and your health.

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