“I don’t have an injury or anything, I just feel tight”
I hear this phrase a lot with my corporate clients when I provide massage therapy as part of their wellness program.
To be quite honest, this is one of the most superficial pieces of feedback you could ever give me.
Your “tightness” is what you are feeling.
Feelings are fickle.
They come and go.
What you feel is also really important.
It’s a good starting point.
It’s the entrance to the rabbit hole.
If I succeeded well enough at contradicting myself, I’ve piqued your interest.
The sensation of tension you are feeling is quite real. Anyone who tries to deny it is a jerk.
It’s superficial in the sense that nobody has probably asked you WHY you are feeling tense.
Your musculoskeletal system relies on tension to get you through the day.
Without it, you wouldn’t be able to stand up from sitting, climb stairs, or raise your coffee cup to your mouth.
You wouldn’t be able to smile without tension. Or laugh.
Without tension, you are powerless. You can’t move.
Why is your alarm system alerting you to an excess of tension in a localized area of your body?
Figuring out the WHY behind the WHAT will provide you with the best success at not only feeling better but also being able to carry out your daily tasks with improved focus, speed, and efficiency.
Bottom line: addressing WHY you are tight and tense increases your bottom line.
If you would like consult with me and work through my evaluation process to figure out WHY you are feeling tense, tight, and generally not your best, please email me at email@example.com to set up a free consultation to see if working together is a good fit.
If you are always feeling stiff, tight, “out”, and your knots keep coming back despite your best efforts, you may be missing vital pieces of information that will help you feel your best.
My Facebook feed is full of back-to-school photos today.
It’s so cute seeing all the Littles in their First Day outfits, eager to make good first impressions.
And while I don’t have kids of my own, I can’t help but feel a tug at my heartstrings of seeing my niece, backpack slung over her shoulders, eagerly getting on the bus and head into 1st grade like the superstar she is.
Makes me want to buy some crayons.
Imagine my surprise to also see a ton of stuff on my Facebook feed saying how this time honored tradition and right of passage of slinging a backpack over the shoulders wrecks a kid’s body.
[Insert “Say what, now?” face]
Stuff like, “don’t forget to get your child’s posture evaluated”, showing an elementary school age kid standing in front of a grid wall with before/after photos of what wearing and not wearing a backpack looks like to his posture.
Words like “health risk” and “danger” are being paired with “backpack”.
These articles and studies I’ve read keep mentioning loads and posture, which is such a loaded concept.
They talk about loads and posture as if it’s a fixed, unchangeable point.
Worst and Best.
Lawful good vs. chaotic evil.
Back-To-School Mode: UNLOCKED.
To say backpacks (or any bag for that matter) wrecks our kids’ (or our own) posture and leads to this-or-that musculoskeletal issue or structural diagnosis is kind of a dull, low-level understanding of how the body functions as a whole, dynamic entity.
It’s fine and dandy to stand in front of a grid wall to evaluate posture, but it’s only a snapshot because posture is always adapting.
It adapts to forces we carry (a force would be any weighted object we could carry; I.e. backpack, briefcase, toddler, grocery bag, coffee cup), loading joints as we go and moving through our environment.
How a joint loads differs on what, how, and where we are carrying all of the stuffs.
If we are on flat, uneven, hard, or squishy surfaces, let alone up hill or down hill (or stairs) makes a difference.
We adapt to the amount of the weight and what body part we are primarily relying on to carry that weight.
There are a ton of variables in our equation.
When did Homo sapiens become a bunch of wussies who aren’t able to move without aches and pains while carrying stuff?
I’m thinking it’s when we stopped carrying stuff and moving around.
Not the Enemy
Bags and backpacks aren’t the enemy; there’s nothing wrong with using them when we need to.
They make it convenient to carry larger, unruly amounts of stuff.
In less trips, and hands free.
And since most people don’t do much lifting and carrying heavy things these days, usually the loads in the center of the body are more comfortable than on our arms, hands, and shoulders.
Like I said, convenience. And comfort.
What happens when center mass can’t handle the forces anymore and now you feel an ache in some body part or other from carrying around your bag?
Your body is now poorly managing the forces placed on your body, muscles can be overworking or underperforming, and the joints being loaded aren’t responding with adaptable ease.
You are experiencing dysfunction.
Those parts are ill equipped, for whatever reason, to carry the weight.
Maybe they are tired.
Maybe there was a tweaky injury in there once-upon-a-time and now there’s some compensation patterns built up as your brain tries to figure out how to get the job done and avoid pain at the same time.
Don’t throw the backpack out with the bathwater just yet.
Loads are simply the experience of the thing.
Experiences can change.
If the complaint is the backpack makes for sore shoulders or low backs, switch how the backpack is carried.
Create some new habits. Load your joints in new and novel ways.
Switch when you start to fatigue because hey (!) you’re building strength and adaptations in new places now.
The only wrong answer is continuing to load your joints in painful ways when one method to carry out the task becomes cumbersome or excessively uncomfortable.
I think that’s the crux of the issue; we only do a small handful of activities with no variations on the theme.
Give the area you excessively work a recovery break by using another area you negligently use in your regular and daily habits.
The Great Posture Debate is really kind of dull.
It’s so yes/no these days.
The human body is too brilliantly complex and dynamic to distill it’s function down to a rigid set of “do this, not that” principals.
Remember, you have lots of different parts you can use to get the job done.
Do: move more of your body more frequently. Get creative. Explore.
Don’t: limit yourself. Or be afraid.
[bell rings] Class dismissed.
Do you feel aches and pains and limitations within your movement abilities?
It may be time to have those properly looked at.
If you would like to improve on your movement and postural potential, address any old (or new) injuries that never completely went away on their own, or explore possible compensation patterns that could be contributing to the “stress” you feel in your body, you can schedule a session here for a full evaluation and assessment.
It’s the worst when the arches in your feet start aching with each step you take.
You’ll probably blame your shoes, your fitness, or your weight.
Face it; walking is an awesome, and free, way to commute and to exercise.
Start putting some miles on those treads of yours!
But, man alive, is it a bad day when you’re far from where you started and your feet ache. All you’ve got is some grumbling and hobbling to wherever you’re headed to.
A Common Hitch in the Giddyup
I recently worked with a woman who was getting back to her walking routine after a hiatus. She desired to get “back in shape” and has some fitness goals she’d like to keep.
She informed me she has a history of plantar fasciitis and would really like to avoid a repeat of that if at all possible.
As she highlighted her story for me so I could better understand and figure out where to start, something she said piqued my interest.
She shared with me how her foot pain was worse while walking; her arches cramp up and she feels like she’s slow as a turtle in peanut butter.
Bingo! I found a place to start.
Keep Calm and Keep Walking
Walking is a whole-body activity. Or it should be and commonly isn’t.
With each step you take the muscles on the back of your body work in concert to strongly push off the ground to propel the leg forward. Many muscles are involved in the process, and for the most optimized efficiency, these muscles need to work in the proper sequence.
It all starts with the glutes, because the glutes are life.
I’ve wandered from the story a bit…
To review, she says she meanders slowly and her arches hurt.
A common compensation pattern at play here is the feet trying to do all the work for sleepy glutes.
Through a quick muscle function evaluation this is exactly what we found: her gluteus maximus, a powerful driver in walking, was sleeping at the wheel and the muscles in her feet were stepping up to take up the slack to propel her forward.
Those muscles, while a part of the process, aren’t designed to do the lion’s share of the work, so when they step up and step in for the lack of power in the glutes, they will fatigue and you will feel a deep ache with each step.
It’s like when you pick up the workload for a co-worker that’s a major slacker…you get tired and cranky too.
It’s not that you’re out of shape. Don’t blame your shoes. Or your weight.
What Do We Do?
A reasonable and effective massage therapy approach to this scenario is to massage the muscles in the foot, especially from the big toe to the arch, to “turn down the volume”.
Once the foot calms down, the Gmax usually wakes up and starts to do the job better, which is the most opportune time to build some movement memory in the brain.
These corrections are short-term, since the brain’s go-to is the dysfunctional pattern, so releasing and activating are a part of a daily homework routine, usually for a couple of weeks as your brain remembers what the most efficient way to walk is.
What you feel is less foot pain and more enjoyable walking so you can keep on moving!
Try this solution to your foot pain see if it helps. If it doesn’t, let’s make it a point to meet up to see if this compensation pattern is in effect in you. Foot pain is a symptom of many different dysfunctional movement patterns, so for the best success, we need to see exactly which ones are at play in your situation and customize the work 100% to you.
To schedule time to check, click here to make an appointment.
Healthy Foot Workshops are also available, and include everything you need to participate in an incredible movement-based class. Check the schedule for dates!
Nina is a passionate human being with high standards, great expectations, and an insatiable hunger for vibrancy, vitality and adventure in life.
She believes knowledge is power and this applies to our health and wellness as we move away from prescriptions and procedures, toward prevention and preservation.
Nina leads an active lifestyle and is no stranger to aches, pains, and the occasional injury. Not being keen on injections and pills, she continues to pursue active strategies that will allow her to continue serving her community, keep up with her responsibilities, and maintaining (or improving upon!) her health as she gracefully ages.
Nina has practiced clinical massage therapist since 1999, and enjoys continuously building upon and expanding her understanding and knowledge of the human body and how it works at it’s most efficient and effective level possible.