Muscle of the Month
By: EriK Cannard, LMT
Sternocleidomastoid is unquestionably my favorite muscle. Not only does it have a fantastic name, its unique position in the body means it has significant effects on our daily lives. Originating at the top of the breastbone and collarbone near the midline, it attaches just behind the ear making it a major muscle in the front of the neck and one of the strongest rotators of the head. People often see their own sternocleidomastoid in the mirror but don’t even realize they are looking at a muscle. If it’s visible, it’s probably working to stabilize or move your heavy head.
The fact that it “pops” away from the neck when in use makes it a very easy muscle to isolate and massage from all sides. I have found sternocleidomastoid in most people to be very receptive to gentle compression and kneading. It often takes very little effort to achieve a significant amount of relief and relaxation in this area.
A slumped posture when working at a computer, holding a phone with your shoulder, tense winter driving and excess stress all contribute to an overly tight sternocleidomastoid. Symptoms of this muscle tension can include stiff neck, jaw pain and headache. If someone comes to me complaining of a tension headache above or behind their eyes, I can guarantee we’ll be doing some work with sternocleidomastoid.
Check In With Your Body Series – Body Awareness
By: Nicolette Wood
It is well known that regular massage therapy is good for increasing relaxation, decreasing muscle tension and generally improving ones well-being. In addition to the physical benefits, massage therapy can also contribute to body awareness. Sometimes the daily grind of life prevents us from noticing our bodies’ indications that a treatment may be in order. Busy schedules and life responsibilities can allow you to ignore that trigger point in your shoulder, tension in your hips or tightness in your low back. Incorporating a massage session into your busy month as a regular “to-do” item can allow you to catch and address those muscle pains and allow you to increase your well-being, and therefore, productivity. Receiving monthly massage can also give you more body awareness to know which muscles or areas of your body are needing regular or additional attention. You can expect as a part of a routine massage session that a massage therapist may notice potential abnormalities on exposed skin during a session and note them to the client to be addressed further. To help keep your body in check, make an appointment and set aside an hour each month to increase and maintain your own body awareness.
Reset, Revive and Resource Yourself in Just 1-minute.
By: Tamra Holder, LMT
If you sit at a computer regularly for long periods, you’ve probably felt it, that pain in your upper back, shoulders and neck from the posture you’ve sunk into while your eyes are locked into the narrow focus obliged by a computer screen. Well, you are not alone, this happens to most everyone, but you do not have to submit to this painful state of being. Freedom from suffering in relationship to your computer can be yours without imposing a rigid and equally painful militaristic posture. So, how can you RESET your posture and find neutral, a place of ease and dynamic equilibrium in relationship to gravity and it’s opposite: ground reaction force? How can you REVIVE yourself, break free from the tension holding you in that familiar statuesque position of Rodin’s “The Thinker” to feeling the dynamism of being wholly alive in each moment? How can you gain access to all your inner RESOURCES in just 1-minute?
Well, set your timers for once every thirty minutes AND TRY THIS:
Starting position:set the height of your seat so your hips are 1”- 2” higher than your knees and scoot to the edge of your seat so your thighs are mostly off of the seat. Use a firm cushion if your seat will not adjust to the height you need. Rest your hands on your thighs. Inhale here.
Flexion:give a slight push into your feet and rocking on your sitting bones, send the top of your pelvis (the back of your waist) backward as you begin to melt your spine into a fairly even curve. Begin to exhale about midway as you sink into this C-shape in your spine. Feel the support of your pelvis while you let yourself relax into flexion. Allow your hands to slide out toward your knees.
Prepare for Extension:On the pause after your exhale, take your C-shaped spine and it rock slightly forward on your sitting bones. Slide your hands up close to the crease at the top of your thighs.
Extension:Now, push down into the ground through your sitting bones, feet and hands to give you the upward impulse for coming into your fullest length. Inhale just after you push off, enjoying a new deep breath.
Finding Neutral:As you exhale, rock back on your sitting bones just enough to center your pelvis and allow your spine to settle with gravity into balance. Feel this new place of supported alignment in neutral.
Repeat entire sequence 3-6 times (about 1-minute)or longer when you want to unwind more deeply held tensions.
If you’re having difficulty getting your muscles to release tension, make an appointment and one of our practitioners will be happy to assist you so you can let go the burden of tension and enjoy the freedom and ease of being fully alive again.
Activities of Daily Living
By: Erin Rose Turner, LMT
Here are some thoughts I’ve compiled from a few years of listening, observing and working with the healing of “Repetitive Use Injuries” and their related actions because, any time we bring a new and consistent posture/movement into our daily lives, it’s a good idea to consider a few important points:
1. Diversity of use keeps the whole joint active and lubricated. Change up the way you hold and move things.
2. When putting pressure in toward a joint, make sure to flex the muscles that surround that area first, and actively use them to guide your body though the movement, to avoid over exerting the less-flexible ligaments and tendons affected.
3. Recognize when you have an activity that is so repetitive it could harm your joints if performed carelessly so that you can be proactive, intentional and strength building in the process; instead of injurious.
4. Remember that stretches and exercises have many different applications and desired outcomes. For example, there is “Athletic” stretching for paced progress/deadline based-goal reaching and, there is “Recuperative” stretching for recovery and gentle, body-led progress. One is for healing and the other is for strengthening. Both are an important part of wellness but, are best used at different times.
5. With cooling temperatures this winter, even the most limber person experiences a decrease in flexibility if not deliberately warmed up. Give your muscles time to ease into to any repetitive efforts you’ll be making. Even if your day includes 2-3 hours of commuting, consider 3-5 minutes of medium-depth stretching (every hour or so) to build a healthy rhythm of joint lubrication and muscular flexibility into your lifestyle.
6. Stay hydrated with water and tea. Coffee and juice aren’t enough to fully hydrate you. We all need water throughout the day.
With these 5 simple steps, you’re directly supporting your own injury prevention, improved circulation and decreased muscle aches; all very good things. Happy Healing.
By: Erik Cannard, LMT
Here in the Pacific Northwest, the early days of spring and their occasional sun-breaks are the perfect time to head outside and get as much gardening done as possible. I tend to see a lot of people developing low back and hip pain from overwork during this time. The longer lasting of these aches and pains can often be traced to one muscle in particular, Quadratus Lumborum (QL). QL is a roughly rectangular muscle that attaches to the tiny 12th rib, the sides of several lumbar vertebrae and to the top of the pelvis. It is just behind the infamous psoas and is the deepest muscle to still be located on the “back of the back.” While its biggest movement is probably side-bending, I find the QL’s most important function is assisting with the regular stability of our lumbar spine. It holds everything in place really well.
Bending over in the yard for hours at a time pulls QL taut as it balances the spine. These taut muscle fibers will often cause pain to manifest across the hip and buttock as well as the low back area itself.
Massage geared toward the QL usually starts with slow fascial techniques to soften up the surrounding “gristle.” Work will also be done from the side toward the spine instead of top down to create the idea of space between the muscle layers. I typically use some friction across the fibers of QL to encourage circulation and keep everything moving, giving the cells in the area an opportunity to heal and reset. Usually, some side stretches in the days after massage can help maintain the relief of the work itself.
Just knowing that working in such a small area of the back has the potential to give people so much relief makes Quadratus Lumborum one of my favorite muscles.