3 Pains in the Neck

Does your neck hurt more days than it doesn’t? Maybe you’ve tried to adjust some things in your daily life to make it better but the pain just doesn’t go away. Are you looking in the right place for the source of your neck pain? Let’s see:

  1. Smart-phone-itis. Yes, I made that word up. But look at how you are holding your phone to read this or some other article. Extended time on Candy Crush reading news articles with your phone either in your lap or half-way to your lap puts a strain on your neck muscles. Pay attention, you are clenching your shoulder muscles! The front of your neck probably hurts, too.
  2. Laptop neck-opathy. Yep, another made-up word ūüôā ¬†You’ve taken my advice and adjusted your workstation monitor and keyboard but you’ve forgotten about the recreational computer. Do you sit on the sofa with the laptop in your lap? Body check! Your head is pulled forward, shoulders rolled down and your lower back is straining, yes? Sit up! Grab a pillow or two to put between the computer and your lap. Depending on what the back of your seat is like you may want to put support behind your neck. You don’t want your head pulling forward. Adjust however you can until you no longer feel that you are tensing your whole upper body.
  3. Slumpy McSlumperson. Tee hee. I promise no more made up words today. Extended hours at a desktop computer may be unavoidable at work. You’ve adjusted your monitor now straighten yourself up! Remember way back in middle school when your keyboarding teacher told you how to sit? Do that! Sit in a way that you are not hurting! Put both feet on the floor, not crossed. If you have short legs put some kind of lift or stool under your feet. Less strain on your whole upper body this way. Don’t slump. (see name) When you roll your shoulders forward and slump over your breathing quality is lowered, your muscles are strained and you become fatigued more easily. Straighten up, butter-cup! Pull your shoulders back and lift your head. Do you strain your head down to see your monitor? Move it. Move it to wherever you can hold your head reasonably straight.

Could these be causing you neck pain? How can you adjust what you do each day to improve your pain levels? Take frequent breaks at work. Take 60 seconds to stand up, yawn, move your shoulders around then get back to work. Move around when you feel uncomfortable. Put your phone down a little. Your eyes and neck will thank you!

Got a bad case of smart-phone-itis? Massage can help!

#16 of the Business Blogging Challenge: 31 posts in 31 days

Stress Awareness Month!

April is Stress Awareness Month! Why did she use an exclamation point, you ask? Well, I was trying to add some cheer ūüôā

What is Awareness, exactly?

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t need anyone to point out to me when I’m stressed out. I feel it, you know. It’s in my head and spreads throughout my body if I’m not careful. I know when I’m irritable, cranky, tired and fatigued. I can assure you that if someone pointed out to me that I was cranky the “awareness” wouldn’t improve the situation! So what is this “awareness?”

I think it is a great time to share some ideas for Stress Relief. They should change the name to Stress Relief Awareness Month! We know we are stressed, we need help relieving it!

What are some ways to relieve stress?

Massage. Yes, I put this first but I think it is a vital and wonderful method to ease the stress of the mind as well as the body. Massage therapy addresses more than one or two ways that stress can affect the body. Soft music, low lights, no talking, resting while someone rubs your back and places that may hurt. It’s relaxing. It feels good. And it relieves painful symptoms. Oh, and massage is GREAT at relieving headaches.

Exercise. Elevating the heart rate, moving, shaking, walking, running, dancing, yoga and sports are all forms of stress relief. A good sweat seems to clear the mind sometimes. Nothing but you and the pavement, step-step-step-step. Or a class full of friends dancing, sweating and laughing to better health. Maybe a pick-up game of softball, basketball or volleyball with friends is your way to unwind. Any of these things is going to relieve stress, improve your mood and even provide your body with benefits of healthy exercise.

Gardening/yard work. Yes, some forms of stress relief can have the word “work” in them. I’m not the gardening type, but I know many, many people who LOVE to bury their hands in the dirt. There is satisfaction in planting a seed or bulb, tending and cultivating, and then watching it transform into something beautiful. Plus it’s a great opportunity to get your hands dirty, do repetitive tasks, hang out by yourself and be outside. Some people like the results of their work, while others just enjoy the solitude and dirt. Either way some stress is being relieved and your body appreciates it!

Arts/Crafts. Splashing paint on some canvas just sounds fun! You may enjoy making things, crafting things, scrapbooking or photography. Making something out of nothing can be very fun and rewarding. If you are creating something then maybe, just maybe your brain gets a rest from the work/family/stress thoughts that seem to get stuck in your head. Again, relief. And fun!

These aren’t the only ways to relieve stress. I plan to write about more all month long. Meanwhile, what are some fun or creative things you do to relieve stress? Please share so we may try them ūüôā

Do the “Hokey-Pokey”

The other day I was reminded of a very important lesson. A lesson that I share with my dear clients every day. A lesson that I share with my dear readers quite often. I repeat this advice at least once a day, often once per hour.

Get up and move often during your work day.

The longer you sit still the more stiffness and soreness you might feel. I learned that this week! I spent 4 hours as a passenger in a car and 3 hours sitting in a meeting. My body still hurts a whole day later! I take for granted the freedom I have to move around whenever I become uncomfortable. And that’s exactly what I do, I move around a lot.

Move around whenever you become uncomfortable.

I spend most of my time focused on how to relieve pain or make people comfortable. I receive regular massage and notice the slightest little twinge of pain and immediately adjust my posture or activity to relieve it. The other day I couldn’t do that. I sat in mostly one position for most of the day. My body did not like this. My hip flexors were in pain and trying to cramp up. Have you ever had a cramp in your hip? Not fun! I really wanted to get up, stretch and walk around but I didn’t want to disrupt the meeting.

Sometimes you just need to stand up and do the Hokey-Pokey.

I realize that it may not be realistic to take frequent breaks at work. It’s so easy for the professionals to hand out advice like “take a break every hour,” “stretch at your desk,” and “walk around while you are on the phone.” I give this advice all the time but in reality your boss might not want you to stop working every hour. You may not have room to stretch at your desk. ¬†Standing may not be an option all the time for your work. So what now? ¬†Stand up when you can and make the most of it. Do the Hokey-Pokey! It covers every thing. This dance from your childhood is the perfect way to loosen up tight shoulders and get your blood moving. Plus it’s fun! Just don’t forget to shake it all about. Shake out your arms, move your head around and just move! You’ll feel better, I promise.

Do you take move around breaks at work? What helps you relieve or prevent tight, sore muscles?

“Hands-free” Equals “Pain-free”

Have you gone “hands-free” yet? I must admit I was slow to jump on the I’m-going-to-wear-this-ugly-ear-piece-so-I-can-talk-and-do-stuff bandwagon. Those ear pieces looked so silly! Have you ever thought you were having a conversation with someone in the grocery store only to find out he/she was actually talking on the phone? Yeah, they probably never even noticed I was you were talking! And then my husband bought a head-set for me…

“Hands-free” equals “pain-free”

Peeling potatoes while talking on the phone
Peeling potatoes while talking on the phone

If not pain-free then at least less pain in the neck and shoulders. I speak from experience! Two years ago I drove for 2 hours per day. I spent a lot of time on the phone. After a few months of holding my cell phone up to my hear my neck and shoulders hurt every day. I was in constant pain. Even though I’m a professional massage therapist I couldn’t figure out why my neck hurt so much! I stretched, went to the chiropractor, got regular massage, changed the way I used my shoulders while giving massage, and took pain relievers.

My first week of using the ear-piece was like an epiphany. I noticed a difference in my neck after only a couple of days. My neck was still tight but my shoulders didn’t burn anymore. The second week I felt normal again. Two massages, an adjustment and the ear-piece had me back to myself.

Why it hurts

Holding a phone up to your ear for long periods of time can cause neck and shoulder pain. There isn’t support under your elbow. ¬†The upper traps ¬†(top of shoulder) cramp and burn. I mean burn. It hurts! These shoulder muscles actually attach to the spine in your neck therefore your neck hurts, too.

Headaches?

These same neck and shoulder pains can radiate up your neck to your skull giving you a tension headache. Then you have the trifecta: burning shoulder pain, neck pain and headache. Not fun.

Stop the Cause

Stretching, massage and pain relievers could help these symptoms but if you want the pain to go away you must stop the cause of the pain. Try hands-free. You can buy a head-set wherever you bought your phone. They can be set up to be used in one ear or the other. There are even headphones with microphones built-in if you don’t want to use the bluetooth kind.

Using ¬†a hands-free device allows your neck and shoulder muscles to move. If you are driving you’ll be able to have both hands on the steering wheel and your head straight. (Check your state laws to make sure you can drive and talk on the cell phone at the same time. Some states ban the practice while others allow for hands-free devices.) Your shoulders won’t be shrugged constantly and you can turn your head freely.

I use my headset all the time. If I’m folding laundry I can talk to my sister, friend or husband. It’s another way to multitask while preventing neck/shoulder pain and headaches.

Are you hands-free? Do you use an ear piece or wired headphones with mic?

Running and Foot Pain

Sesamoiditis. What? Never heard of it? I bet you’ve felt it, though. It commonly presents as pain in the forefoot, usually beneath the big toe. The Mayo Clinic defines it as an inflammation of the small accessory bones (sesamoids) located on the underside of the foot near the big toe.

Have you recently started increasing your running miles? Sesamoiditis sometimes creeps up on people who are increasing miles while training for a marathon. The pain starts as a mild ache in the ball of the foot and becomes more painful over time.

Image from Mayoclinic.com

Take a look at your running shoes. When did you start using them? Are they showing wear and tear? Do you add extra support with insoles? Runner’s World magazine suggests replacing your running shoes every 300-500 miles. Worn out shoes and incorrect shoes both contribute to injury in runners. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in the shoe store.

The common treatments for this type of foot pain are

  • Rest! Ease up on the training a bit. Do some other types of exercise and let the foot bones recover.
  • Ice. I know that soaking your feet in a hot bath feels good, but in a situation involving inflammation you will want to put ice on the painful area.
  • Your physician may recommend some type of over-the-counter pain reliever.
  • The doctor might also suggest a corticosteroid injection to help with swelling.
  • Extremely painful cases may require walking boots or crutches.

Wouldn’t a little bit of rest be better than a week or so on crutches? Listen to your body. I read somewhere this week that pain is not your enemy. Pain is a signal.* ¬†Sometimes we know exactly why something hurts and how to make it better. Other times we can’t figure out why something hurts and we don’t know what to do.

If you are training for a distance you’ve never ran before, be mindful of your aches and pains. Soreness may be common and even expected, but¬†excruciating¬†pain isn’t necessary to achieve your goals. Find a trusted source and get a training schedule complete with short days and rest days. And follow it!

Do you experience any foot pain? What remedies would you add to this list?

*Update: I remembered where I read this! Kat Mayerovitch wrote a great piece for other massage therapists. She is who said that pain is not your enemy.

 

Frequently Un-asked Questions Part 1

Many people are curious about massage therapy. “What can massage do to help my lower back?” “I wonder if I would sleep better if I got a few massages?” ¬†I hear questions related to specific complaints every week. People talk with me at length about various aches and pains, yet remain hesitant to make an appointment. Why? Apprehension. Anxiety. Unsure of what will happen.

Often times the most important questions are the ones left un-asked. Why is it so hard to ask ¬†questions? If you have one small “thing” you don’t understand, why wouldn’t you ask? What may be simple to me could be a big deal to you, especially if the only information you have is from TV shows. ¬†That’s what these two posts will address. The un-asked questions. They might seem silly to those of you who get regular massage, but to someone who has never had a massage every question is important. I’d like to help answer them if I can. ¬†I eat, sleep and breathe massage, so sometimes I have to make myself step back and think when someone doesn’t understand what to do or not do.

FREQUENTLY UN-ASKED QUESTIONS:

Where will my massage take place? Is it out in the open?
The Comfort Zone Massage is located inside T’Zers Hair and Nail Salon in Paris, AR.¬† (If you aren’t from here your therapist’s location will be different but your privacy concerns will be met in much the same way.)
The massage treatment room has a door that closes for your privacy. Massage does not take place out in the beauty salon for other people to see. No one will hear our medical history discussions or know anything about your treatments. Your safety and privacy are top priorities. 

IMG_1895

What should I expect at my first massage appointment?
Arrive about 10 minutes early to fill out your health history form. We can discuss any symptoms, aches, pains, surgeries, medications or concerns you may have. You will be given a tour of the facility. We discuss your entire massage session so you  know what to expect.

How long will my massage last? What if I want to stop?
Massage sessions are usually 30, 60, or 90 minutes. This time is hands-on treatment time. Your massage minutes do not include filling out forms, using the restroom or preparing for the massage. If you buy an hour you get an hour.

Are you worried that if you don’t like the massage you will have to lay there the entire time? Please tell me if you’d like to stop the massage. Massage isn’t for everyone. If you are uncomfortable, in pain, or just don’t want to continue you have the right to ask me to stop. I want you to. Your comfort and safety are important to me. Sometimes people give massage as gifts to people who don’t really want it. It’s OK to not like it. Nicely explain that you are uncomfortable and I will gladly stop the session. No worries!

Anxiety is another reason someone may want to stop a massage. There are people who love massage but must get the shorter sessions. They are unable to lay there for a full 60 or 90 minutes. We can discuss these things and choose a length of time that works for you. All you have to do is ask.

To some it may seem silly to ask, “Do you do the massage out in front of everyone?” But if someone thinks this, he or she may not ever book a massage to help with his/her pain.

The next post I will answer questions about what to wear, will you be naked, and when you should not get a massage.

 

Thanks, Giving, and Thanksgiving

Thank you. Yes, you. You’ve been reading this and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And thank you to those who are my wonderful clients. Without you I couldn’t live my passion, my dream of helping people through the healthy, nurturing, pain-relieving touch that is Massage Therapy. I cannot say it enough to you,¬†Thank you.

Giving. It’s what we do every day. You know what I mean, you give all you have. You work hard at your job, whatever it may be. You give yourself to your home. Things must be done for everything and everyone to function and you do more than necessary. You go above and beyond. The dishes get done AND put away. You put off reading a chapter in your book to make sure your child has his favorite shirt clean for tomorrow. You pack lunches, clean rooms, take out the trash and search for long-lost stuffed animals.

You give. And your life is pretty good for it. It seems like every moment you are doing something. Preparing for the next day, the next event, or even the next meal. So when do you rest? When do you take the time for you? Oh, I know a whole day is most impossible, but what about that chapter in the book? You should read that.

Thanksgiving is just next week. That’s right, I said it out loud. Thanksgiving is next week! What does that entail for you? Visitors? Cooking and baking? Cleaning? Shopping? Working overtime in retail? Travelling? My guess is the 24 hours you already use up in a typical day just seemed to turn into 12. Holidays tend to steal minutes from our days. They loom ahead just beyond reach and then BAM they are the next week!

Make things a little easier on yourself and cut out something that stresses you out. Add something fun into the schedule! Or just simply MAKE a schedule so that things may flow easier.

Thank yourself during this time of Thanksgiving. I think you deserve to receive a little back of what you give all year long. Schedule a massage at the end of this week or the beginning of next week. There’s time to squeeze an hour in for yourself! You could visit The Comfort Zone to get a massage!

I guarantee you will leave refreshed, re-energized and ready to face the Holidays! Visit my website, www.thecomfortzonemassage.com¬† and click the Schedule Appointment button! If you don’t see the time you need, call me, we can find the time!

PS Thank you again for your continued support of Massage Therapy and The Comfort Zone Massage.

PSS This was written while listening to beautiful music ūüôā

What is Fibromyalgia? Part 2

In the last post I asked the question, “What is Fibromyalgia?” Then I talked about pain. Long-lasting pain.

People ask me all the time, “What kind of pain?” And the only answer I can give, from my personal experience in my massage practice, is that the pain is different in each person. Clear as mud, right?

According to MayoClinic.com, women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men. There is pain that is often joined by fatigue, sleep issues, memory issues, depression and anxiety. So not only does it hurt physically, it hurts emotionally.

I have worked with people whose pain keeps them in bed for days. Each small task seems almost impossible. Loading the washing machine might cause excruciating back pain. Sometimes even lifting a glass to drink might be too painful. It isn’t uncommon to suffer depression, too. Depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia often have a which-came-first discussion.

Some will say that the pain causes the depression. Others say that severe depression can cause the pain fatigue.

I have also worked with people whose pain isn’t quite so severe. It ebbs and flows. ¬†One woman works out every day to keep the pain mild. Another can only work out when she feels well. It affects each and every person differently, but profoundly.

The pain isn’t consistent throughout the body, either. For some the pain is in the neck and shoulder area with major headaches, poor range of neck motion, and constant pain. Others may have severe lower back pain, knee pain, or arm/hand pain. In some the pain acts like arthritis. Others the pain acts like severe muscle spasms. Most of the people I have worked with have good days with mild to no symptoms, as well as bad days with mild to severe symptoms. Each day can be different.

Treatment plans for fibromyalgia often include antidepressants and pain medications (over the counter or prescription.) Therapy or counseling may help with understanding how to deal with possible life changes. Having a good support system in your life who understands the situation is a tremendous help. Massage therapy, chiropractic and acupuncture could be used in addition to what ever the doctor suggests.

www.thecomfortzonemassage.com

What is Fibromyalgia? Part 1

What is Fibromyalgia?

To the person who suffers it is pain. The kind of pain that keeps you in bed. Pain that never seems to go away. Pain that controls your life. Pain that no one seems to understand.

To the doctor  whom the patient sees it is a challenge. It is an enigma,  an ever-changing target.

To the loved ones of the afflicted it is a worry, a concern, a wish to make things better.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia:  is a neurosensory disorder characterized by widespread muscle pain, joint stiffness, and fatigue. The condition is chronic (ongoing), but pain comes and goes and moves about the body. The disorder is often misdiagnosed or unrecognized and is and often complicated by mood and anxiety disorders. (found here)

So, really, what IS Fibromyalgia? We can say that it is chronic pain. We can read that the pain moves to different areas of the body. We can hear our loved one say that they cannot get out of bed some days. We hear them but do we understand? Do we really see?

I work with a few people who live with¬†Fibromyalgia. It is SO completely different in each person that I find it hard to define. I read a book once who called it “The Thief.” (I cannot remember the name of the book, sorry.) This woman called¬†Fibromyalgia¬†“The Thief” because is was stealing her life. Day by day. Moment by moment. Pain. Pain that doesn’t go away. It just becomes tolerable.

I’ve worked with clients whose doctors told them that their pain wasn’t real. They were told to “get over it,” and “we can’t find anything wrong with you, but you’re depressed.” They were given pills and sent home feeling defeated and crazy.

But you don’t need to feel crazy because Fibromyalgia is real. And it hurts. And you very well may be depressed.

I’ve also seen clients whose doctors were amazingly empathetic. The doctors worked with them to try to find solutions for the pain – pain meds, physical therapy, antidepressants, massage therapy, spiritual therapy, and counseling. ¬†Even if the pain didn’t go away the patient had the confidence that comes with being heard and believed.

The next post, maybe two, I will explore in more detail this “Thief” named Fibroyalgia.

www.thecomfortzonemassage.com for more information about the type of Massage Therapy I offer.

Knee Pain and Runners

Runners eventually suffer some type of knee pain. Pounding the pavement on a daily basis is a great form of exercise. All that pounding puts stress on the joints and ligaments. “Runner’s Knee” is a generic term describing knee pain that could be from many different causes.

The muscles surrounding the knee can cause knee pain from overuse. “Overuse? But I’m training! I need to run everyday!”All muscles and joints want and need to move and be used, there’s no question about that. Just pay attention to your body’s cues to rest or cut back. ūüôā

When someone calls me with knee pain from running I massage the WHOLE leg. All of it. The back of the leg (hamstrings) shorten with every step taken. Imagine you are running. Your foot lands and these muscles lengthen a bit and then tighten just enough so you don’t fall. They then immediately shorten again, pulling the foot off the ground and propelling you forward. Step, shorten, step, shorten, step, shorten, etc.

These hamstring muscles are often tight and short on a runner’s leg. The ligaments and tendons are often overstretched and pulling around the back of the knee. ¬†And now you have knee pain. Stretch. Assess how MUCH you are running. Are you running too much for your skill level? Should you change shoes? Change your speed or route?

The front of the leg is also an important factor in running and your knees.
Those muscles lengthen and shorten with every step you take, too.
The front of the thigh extends the knee and stabilizes our steps.
If these muscles are weak you could have knee pain if you run.
Stretch and strengthen these muscles.

Other causes of knee pain in runners are flat feet/fallen arches, a direct injury like a fall and other problems with the feet.

If you are training for a race or just starting on your running adventure it is a good idea
to take care of yourself. The exercise is just ONE way. You must stretch and assess
how your body feels each day. Where are your aches and pains? Are you in actual pain or are you just sore from the workout?

Massage is a great asset to your training regimen. Massage can help the body
heal the little muscle tears from exercise. Massage can help lengthen the tight, short muscles. Muscle tension is common and massage can help relieve the aches and pains
around the joints.
www.thecomfortzonemassage.com