The Case of The Naughty Neck

The Case of The Naughty Neck

A pain in the neck, that’s what I had. A real one, not a metaphorical one.

Have you ever had a neck ache so bad it wouldn’t go away no matter what you tried to relieve the pressure and tension?

Massage, stretching, cracking, heat or ice, a dose of something out of a bottle of various sorts; nothing helps.

After a week of doing a lot of reading in bed where I was propped up by pillows in a variety of wonky positions, my neck was yelling and screaming at me.

The tension, despite my best expert efforts, continued to build until I felt a spillover of crankiness in my jaw and a headache building on the horizon.

I could feel a lovely [sarcasm font] knot on the lower right portion of the back of my neck.

As any quality massage therapist worth their salt would do, I zeroed in on that right-sided knot and spent some time coaxing it to relax.

It did nothing for my neck and jaw junk.

 

Fast Forward

 

A few days later I was on the teaching staff for the next round of Neurokinetic Therapy in Chicago.

I found myself in a room full of highly achieved manual and movement therapists from a wide array of disciplines who needed to practice their manual muscle testing. I had some muscles in need of testing. Can’t do it myself, so, why not?

I took one for the team [wink].

 

I Had It All Wrong

 

The case of my Naughty Neck was not even close to what I expected it to be.

Most days in clinic, I find people have a lot of overwork happening in the muscles in the back of their neck.

These guys (neck extensors for the kinesiologically literate) like to work overtime, usually because of a history of car accidents/whiplash, and lots of hours logged sitting with slumpy posture over a computer keyboard, handheld device, or steering wheel.

Also, because of a lack of core strength, but that is a story left for another day.

There are muscles encircling your neck that function to move your head and sustain your posture. The human head weighs roughly 12 pounds.

I see a lot of only half of those muscles actually doing their job to hold and move the head.

Neck ache ensues, and left unchecked over decades, it can really wear out the hardware in your neck (read: joint changes that limit your ability to move your head around and maybe cause discomfort).

 

Quit Guessing

 

Here I was, massaging that knot on the lower part of my neck.

Remember, this wasn’t helping even a little. It was completely ineffective at relieving the ache that was building daily.

When I had another practitioner test out the neurological function of my neck muscles, we found I had it 100% backwards.

I assumed.

I guessed.

My guess was incorrect.

In my case, the knot on the back wasn’t forming because those tissues were overworking, but because they were underperforming.

The tight muscle was on the front of my neck, where it didn’t hurt, and the backside guys had no chance of keeping up.

I released the correct muscle on the front of my neck, and the painful spot on the back of my neck went away all on it’s own.

So did my jaw tension.

I could have sworn I heard it sigh with relief.

Oh wait….that was me.

 

This is another great example why we can’t assume and guess we know what’s going on.

When you feel pain, tightness, or tension in your body, it’s always for a reason.

It’s trying to communicate something with you about how your body is functioning.

Too often practitioners only look at the painful spot you point to, but that painful spot is only a fraction of the story.

Without actually looking at what the tissue function looks like, you are left with a guess, and like me, that guess could be wrong.

Wrong guesses keep you from feeling your best.


If you feel like you aren’t firing on all cylinders and have an ache or pain that is really cramping your style, make sure to get it checked out! 

I’m currently accepting new clients and have time to do some evaluations and super sleuthing to see if what I do can help you out.

You deserve it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Aches are a Smoke Signal

Your Aches are a Smoke Signal

How to get to some real solutions to eliminate tightness and discomfort versus chasing the pain with no long-lasting, permanent results. Yep, there is a better way.

 

It’s incredibly common to schedule yourself a massage when you are feeling sore, tired, and cranky.

Photo: micagoto

That familiar burn behind your shoulder blades after a long day at the office. A crabby neck from falling asleep on the couch during the nightly Netflix numb-out. Maybe your knees and low back are shot after your lunchtime run.

If you have any experience receiving massage therapy, how often does the LMT zero in on your painful spot you point to, grounding, pounding, and chiseling away to only have the exact painful spot return?

If you’re lucky you get a small handful of relief for a few days. More often than not you only experience a few hours respite from the nagging discomfort you walked in with.

 

What gives?

Are we doomed to wasting precious time and money on a therapy that, at best, is temporary, or at worst, does diddly-squat for those issues you feel in your tissues?

 

Here’s the Insider, Expert Level, Scoop:

Where you think it is…it ain’t

(Thanks, Ida Rolf, for the sound bite)

 

That sore/crabby/cranky/pissy/tight/pinchy thing you feel going on is merely a smoke signal; it’s informing you something is going on, but it doesn’t tell you exactly what it is.

 

Like a smoke signal, you need to be curious about it before it gives up the details.

From a manual therapy perspective, soft-tissues are often neurologically overworking or neurologically underperforming.

Ideally everything would be working effortlessly and seamlessly in concert together.

When you’re hurting, they likely aren’t.

Both the overwork/underperform states can leave you feeling sore, tight, and likely with some level of discomfort in various movements or activities that call on those muscle groups.

 

To simplify and restate:

  • An overworking muscle can feel tight and painful.
  • An underworking muscle can feel tight and painful.

 

Greeeeat! So which is it?

Million dollar question right here and one that will determine your success at feeling and moving better without a hitch in your giddyup.

In my massage therapy practice, I use an evaluation and muscle testing process that provides us with the information we need to determine what’s what.

If we find a muscle is neurologically amped up, then heck yeah (!), let’s release it. I will gladly press on it for you.

However, if a muscle isn’t properly utilized by your brain in a particular movement pattern, let’s call it “weak” for generalized simplicity’s sake, and not performing at it’s potential, all the deep tissue massage, stretching, cracking, and foam rolling isn’t going to do jack toward helping you recover and restore your ability to dynamically move without pain.

 

The process is quite simple:

  1. Figure out what’s doing too much and too little (Buzzword: Compensation Pattern)
  2. Turn down the volume on the overachiever
  3. Get the slacker back in the game

 

What you experience is better, smoother, effortless movement with a happy and welcomed side effect of a less sore/crabby/cranky/pissy/tight/pinchy body.

Bonus side effect: you cut down on the potential for injury and tissue damage, as well as prevent possible wear and tear on the “hardware” of your body, ‘cause nobody got time for that.

Bonus bonus side effect: you have the ability and energy to show up in deeper, more profound, and effective ways for the people you love and the communities you serve.

Trifecta.

 

 

 

Don’t Get Stuck In A Box.

Don’t Get Stuck In A Box.

My least favorite place to be is “in a box”.

Life feels like the movie Groundhog Day; every minute of everyday is the same old thing.

The Daily Grind (not the coffee type) has me feeling unmotivated, uninspired, unsuccessful, and ultimately unhappy.

Coffee can’t fix the lackluster energy, though I’ve tried.

When I sometimes spend more time working than I do at home, to be unsatisfied and unhappy with said work, to not feel ignited and inspired by it, it creates an almost crippling amount of intellectual stress for me.

kitty-in-a-box
Box are good for cats, not for me. Photo credit: Greg Willis

When a client proclaimed, “This isn’t spa music” regarding the Pandora station I had playing as background noise, I died a bit inside.

“I.am.not.a.masseusse!” I screamed in my head.

 

I don’t work in a spa.

(though there is nothing inherently wrong with spas, I just wouldn’t go to one for my creaky joints and aches and pains.)

I don’t do poorly executed deep tissue work.

(don’t get me started on deep tissue work! So much education needs to be done with this one…ok, maybe DO get me started on deep tissue work.)

I admit humility is something I struggle with, however, my ego is just big enough to not believe untruths about myself and my methodology, so I’m ok calling myself and other people out on it. Lovingly, of course.

To not embrace my personal preferences in regards to life, which work is a big part of, and downplaying and underutilizing my strengths and skills,  also a form or arrogance, is to spit in the face of the God-given perspectives and skills I have been gifted with.

 

Wait. What am I supposed to do?

Oh man; not only has everyone else’s preconceived notions about manual therapy put me in a box, but I was feeling so uninspired and unmotivated enough, I managed to put myself in one too.

I didn’t realize I got comfortable being uncomfortable and wasn’t doing that-thing-I-do anymore.

I was completely not honoring my passions, preferences, and perspectives, and as such, I suffered at work spiritually and intellectually.

This, of course, leads to lackluster professional performance.

 

What I do is highly effective rehabilitation work.

Whenever I discover myself boxed in, I immediately flex my guns and get to work.

Let’s be real, I crack open the books and get to work.

There is some flexing going on, but it’s pretty nerdy, and there are no guns involved.

I prefer my longbow. Anywho…

 

I devote tremendous amounts of time to learning new skills and fine-tuning my assessment and evaluation tools.

It’s part of my never-ending quest for knowledge, efficiency, and effectiveness.

When I saw a Level 1 class for NeuroKinetic Therapy was being offered this fall, I grabbed the Discover card and registered post haste.

NKT is a body of work that I have been stalking for quite some time and many of my mentors practice it. They talk about it all of the time, and I just had to know more about it.

I was incredibly excited to learn something new. To challenge myself and gain deeper knowledge and understanding of the human body and it’s amazing potential.

 

Good thing too!

NKT is like nothing I’ve ever studied before. I’m challenged. I’m lit up like a candle. I’m feeling more motivated than I have in longer than I can remember, and the RESULTS!?

Wowza.

I am blown away by the results I have seen in the short time since I sat in on the class.

Even with my Newbie, 20-Minute Understanding of this material, I feel like I found a Golden Ticket to something really special.

This Golden Ticket is also the missing piece of the puzzle to a lot of junk stories I hear from clients and the general public at large.

Things about getting older, orthotics, not being able to “hold” their adjustments, and trying every therapy under the sun and not experiencing any long term results.

I hear a lot of, “you’re my only hope!” Naturally, Princess Leia is saying it.

Because she gets the job done, with a little help from friends. Photo credit: Jose M. Izquierdo Galiot
Because she gets the job done, with a little help from friends. Photo credit: Jose M. Izquierdo Galiot

 

People feel like they are out of options.

They think they’ve tried everything.

Pretty sure you haven’t tried everything.

We sure can talk ourselves in an out of anything. We can easily become complacent and accept the discomfort as “normal”. It’s not.

I challenge you to not hold onto your preconceived notions too tightly. Doing so can be very demotivating. Trust me, I know.

 

Moving Forward. Not staying stuck.

It’s been about 5 weeks since I went to the Level 1 workshop, and the neat results I’m seeing truly blow me away.

I love how the more I learn, the more I realize I have yet to learn!

 

Learning the NKT material has breathed new life into my manual therapy practice and I am so eager to learn more and see it breathe new life into the lives of the people I am privileged to work with.

Mixing it in with my already established body of work and techniques I have at my disposal are bringing great outcomes to the people on my table, as well as making work fun again.

 

I’m out of the box.

I’m challenging the status quo.

I’m not settling for how things are and I take responsibility for the stresses I experience as part of my personal narrative.

That’s exactly the place I want to be.

 

If you’re up for the challenge, come on over and join me.

Let’s all bust out of our confining boxes and shatter the stories we tell ourselves.

Maybe there is a better way.

I trusted there was and I found one as it related to the discomfort I was feeling.

Maybe your discomfort isn’t spiritual or intellectual as mine has been; maybe it’s physical and social.  There are many avenues stress and discomfort show up in a person’s life.

How about you? Where are you feeling the discomfort?

 

Your Pain Isn’t a Mystery

Being in pain is a drag.

Nothing wears you out like an ache that won’t go away. Pain really cramps your style and ability to be excellent. It stops you from doing things you love to do. It keeps you at home, isolated and alone, watching Netflix instead of doing amazing things.

Pain & Injury

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’d do whatever you could to escape a nagging pain.

As an Orthopedic Massage Therapist, I see lots of people that aren’t feeling their best. They are uncomfortable. Crabby. Scared. Fed up!

Maybe you’ve tried numerous traditional medical approaches to feel better. Pain meds and muscle relaxers are common. Perhaps you’ve done a round of physical therapy. Your chiropractor is on speed dial. No one dare utter the S-word-that-shall-not-be-named (Surgery), and massage therapy is usually the last ditch effort.

 

One question I get every time I start working with a new client:

Why do I hurt so freaking much?! 

The majority of your issues didn’t happen overnight or in a dramatic accident. The majority of the pain and discomfort I work with builds slowly over time. It’s like shaking a soda bottle; a little shake makes very few bubbles. Keep on shaking it and be prepared to clean the soda off the ceiling. That’s what’s going on in your body too. The pressure builds until you feel the Big Ouch.

 

There are four basic players when it comes to the aches and pains you feel. Every injury can be traced back to Misuse, Disuse, Overuse, and good old Abuse.

Misuse: Incorrectly moving your body, which places stress on soft tissue (muscle, joint, ligament, tendon, connective tissue, discs, etc.)

Disuse: Not moving enough, which weakens soft tissue and causes balance and control problems.

Overuse: Moving too much, which causes fatigue by not allowing the body the time it needs to recover. Overuse also includes performing activities that require greater strength and endurance than you possess.

Abuse: Your soft tissues take a beating when excessive forces are placed on otherwise normal, healthy tissue.

 

My case files are filled with examples of the 4-‘uses.

  • The computer whiz with a rotator cuff injury in the right arm and tingling in the hand from using the mouse all day (Misuse).
  • The Lady with Fibromyalgia who doesn’t have the energy to exercise and aches terribly and has balance issues (Disuse).
  • The Marathoner who hurt his hip and knee and can’t keep up with his mileage because of the pain, but won’t take a break to heal the injury (Overuse).
  • The new Crossfitter jumping into a WOD for the first time after years as a couch potato and trying to keep up with the people who’ve been at it for ages (Abuse).

 

Good News: The 4-‘uses can be fixed.

Once you start using your body better, injuries heal, movement feels good, and you are back to your life stronger than ever. No pain. Just awesomeness.

Do you experience aches and pains that won’t go away? If you haven’t had your movements evaluated thoroughly and would like to explore how Misuse, Disuse, Overuse, and Abuse are affecting you, please consider doing so and getting back to your regularly scheduled activities.

Give me a call. I’d be glad to help you out.

 

 

 

The Truth About Sciatica

The Truth About Sciatica

I’m no stranger to injuries of the athletic variety; I call these “the easy ones” because I can point to EXACTLY where it hurts. No guessing. Mine are in the knee, ankle, and occasionally, the wrist/hand. Not so this winter!

A one-size-fits all approach to pain-3

Let’s backtrack a bit: Winter 2015 was not kind to me. It felt like I was coming down with some illness every other week. As such, I make a very poor patient, with very poor patience.

 

This last go-around left me with a nasty chest plague. Intense coughing fits really did a number on my body, and at one point I was even consulting The Google with a “Lumbar pain AND coughing” query. This is a real thing, as evidenced by a large amount of articles provided. I found myself doubled over with low back pain with each spasm, needing to support my upper body weight on my knees to keep my back from feeling like it was going to break. I’ve even had numbness and a feeling of heaviness in my leg after sleeping in certain positions.

 

Pain down the leg, commonly called Sciatica by many, comes in many shapes and sizes.

I’d like to take some time right now and clear up some of the mystique about this often-proclaimed condition.

 

Sciatica is merely a bucket diagnosis, meaning it is a generalization to explain a set of symptoms ranging from low back pain, pain in the buttock, thigh, leg and foot. It isn’t really a diagnosis, per se. Sciatica means, in Greek, “pain down the leg”. Most people confuse these generalized symptoms with an issue with the sciatic nerve. Everyone has a sciatic nerve, two actually, one on the right and a match on the left. Originating from the L4/L5 vertebrae, the sciatic nerve shoots through the muscles of the back part of the hip, down the thigh, branches off into different segments just north of the knee, and ends in the foot.

Pain can shoot down the leg from a variety of different conditions and structures, other than actual sciatic nerve injury, and knowing the Why can increase the odds of improvement and recovery.

If your back hurts, it’s also not uncommon to have more than one issue going on at a time.

 

The traditional medical treatment of sciatica is usually muscle relaxers and oral steroids to treat inflammation. The goal is palliative in nature, meaning the symptoms are suppressed, but the condition isn’t addressed. This treatment sometimes works, but not always, and many a client of mine have complained how their back pain feels worse after the prescriptions expire. Sure, the muscle relaxers relaxed the tight muscles in the low back, which were there to prevent further injury.

 

Muscular splinting, like a fever, is not something to be afraid of, and is quite useful and protective. We shouldn’t be so hasty to eliminate it.

 

 

Of course the steroids did their work to reduce the inflammation, thus decreasing pain, but inflammation is the chemical process our body uses in which to heal itself. I’m going to throw, “poor patients; poor patience” back out there. Interpret that at your own pace.

 

From a physical medicine standpoint, assessing sciatica is of the utmost importance. Different reasons for pain down the leg require incredibly different methods of therapy.

A treatment protocol for one reason could be absolutely catastrophic for another, causing more pain, injury, and loss of function.

Successful recovery requires pairing the proper treatment plan with the correct reason for the pain. It’s proactive. There is work to be done. This is easily done with skilled hands-on assessment techniques. Many of the causes of sciatica can’t be seen with the eye, and don’t necessarily and definitively show up on imaging, especially via X-ray.

 

Without a proper hands-on assessment, we’re guessing at best, and getting in the way of recovery at worst.

 

As an Orthopedic Massage Therapist, it is not my duty to diagnose. In fact, it is prohibited. I can, however, assess for the purpose of informed decisions toward effective treatment protocols. I’ve studied assessment technique at great length, as well as the differences between many of the injuries we can experience in our body. I assess so I don’t make you worse. My first question is always, “have you seen a Physician recently for this issue?”   Sometimes the answer is yes, and the diagnosis given is sciatica (big help there), and sometimes it is no, in which case I always encourage the client to consider doing to establish a history. Whether the client has seen a physician or not, I still do my own assessment; I don’t rely on what others tell me, and who says my perspective and skill-set isn’t incredibly useful in these situations? That’s a rhetorical question [grin]. If the client is game for an in-depth assessment, we do it, if they just want to veg on my table for an hour or so, we do that instead, just don’t expect high mileage therapy. If you want me to do my job, let me do my job.

 

Some of the most common reasons for “sciatica” are: dysfunctional and destabilized sacroiliac joint; pelvic imbalances and distortions; sacroiliac/sacrotuberous ligament injury; facet joint dysfunction; spondylolisthesis; herniated nucleus pulposus (disk)/lumbar radiculopathy; piriformis syndrome; lumbar ligament injury; and generalized neuromuscular dysfunction.

 

Phew!

 

As you can see, many different situations cause “pain down the leg”. When we assess an injury or a pain, we utilize a variety of range of motion tests. Some are active, some passive, and others are resisted; basically, you do some of the moving, I move you, and we work together as a team to flesh out the information we need to guide us in the correct direction. We then can properly plan the best treatment protocol to ensure your safety and optimal recovery. Sometimes referrals are made to see an appropriate medical professional based off of our findings.

 

We can’t know what we don’t know, and I don’t like to guess when people are hurt. It’s a waste of time and money when we guess. It can be dangerous to guess, as sometimes some pretty big issues cause the pain. I want happy, raving-fan clients who enjoy a healthy life without pain and injury.

 

I didn’t get the nickname “Magic Hands” for nothing.

 

Nothing says “Good Morning” like waking up to use the Necessary in the middle of the night and having to drag my leg behind me. I admit to a slight freak out; my Mom had a stroke a few years ago that showed up as a loss of function in her right foot. The doctors kept telling her she had a “pinched nerve” in her low back. Using my assessment skills, I encouraged her to consult a neurologist, and it was very good she did; she had a blocked artery in her neck, which caused the stroke. So here I am, 2:33am, running through some assessments in my sleep addled mind, making sure I could go back to bed or if I needed to wake my husband and call an ambulance. I’m prone to melodramatics, so I give myself a gold star for keeping my cool while half asleep and half numb. I rationalized what was going on and decided more beauty sleep would do me good, just change my sleeping position. I awoke the next morning with pain and stiffness. I did the appropriate stretches and exercises and now, 48 hours later, am completely fine.

 

No numbness. No tingling. No pain. Good movement. Back to normal. Not even an ache when I cough.

 

It’s important to take a look at any discomfort you may experience in your body. Pain is a messenger. Let it tell you what it needs to tell you before you silence it with prescriptions and procedures. There is always a reason for pain. If you have low back pain and haven’t had it thoroughly addressed, not only with imaging, but also with a thorough movement and postural analysis, consider yourself only marginally informed of what is going on. It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to squash symptoms; no one, not even me, likes to feel pain or discomfort, but successful recovery is difficult if we don’t address why the pain is present in the first place.

 

Is it time for your assessment?

 

If you are experiencing low back pain, either new or old, and would like to explore some options on how to alleviate your discomfort, I welcome you to email me at ninamv1@live.com, or call my receptionist at (847)249-7960 with any questions.  If you are ready and proactive, I encourage you to also click the Book Now button above.

**the information contained above is not meant to diagnose illness or injury, but is meant as education, as self-inquiry, and to inspire greater dialogue between you and your health care team.**