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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

 

The Painful Pursuit of Perfection

The Painful Pursuit of Perfection

Life sometimes feels like an uphill struggle.

To-do lists keep getting longer, distractions get louder, and expectations are damn hard to fulfill. Pressures placed by society, family and social groups, religious affiliations, the media, work, even ourselves, can alarmingly weigh us down. Pressure, and the stress accompanying it, feels terrifyingly heavy.

In my own life, I feel the pressures of being a small business owner, a wife, a daughter and a friend.

My husband asks why the dishes and laundry are never done and why I wait until the last minute to get to the grocery store. My parents ask when they can expect a grandchild. I feel separated from my Mom friends and family because I don’t qualify to be in their club, and evidently I have no clue what overwhelm feels like. I am behind on my continuing education in massage therapy because I have been studying the business side instead. I want to factor in more white space in my schedule to make room for taking care of myself, spending time with God, and to be available for my friends. I’d like to take my dogs for a walk. I’d like to have time to exercise, shower and eat breakfast most mornings. I’d like to fit back into my “skinny” jeans. I want flawless hair and skin.

And while I keep my plates spinning I get to see everyone’s perfectly edited highlight reel on social media; their 6-figure businesses, easily attained beach ready bodies, and beautiful, well-behaved children and GQ husbands who take out the garbage.

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Photo by Katie Hall Photography www.photosbykatiehall.com

Life appears effortless and awesome, and I feel more and more disconnected and ungrounded.

Sometimes I find myself asking, “Nina, what the F is wrong with you? Why can’t you keep up?”

The challenges feel mighty and sometimes the only sweetness I savor is from the organic bakery nearby.

 

A lot of my stress–my soul pressure–comes from feeling like I’m not enough.

I often feel the sharp point of perfectionism. It’s not unusual for me to think, “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t know enough”.

These thoughts regularly cause me tremendous anxiety and fear. This fear makes it impossible to respond productively to any challenge in front of me, undermining my confidence and abilities in overcoming adversity.

The little voice in my head repeats my failings on a loop, and there is no way I can overcome the barrier in front of me.

Growth stops. Stress remains.

To make matters worse, I plug into the self-defeating shame I hear in my head and allow it to fuel my actions– which at this point are completely irrational and not very productive. This is where I’m a mess and become the person no one wants to be around and everyone thinks should be medicated.

I feel unfit for human consumption.

 

I am a perfectionist.

I’d like to think owning this characteristic will help me become a recovering perfectionist.

Being a perfectionist goes way beyond setting high standards for oneself, developing mastery and excellence, or having a keen eye for detail. These are positive attributes, but a perfectionist takes it a step further; it becomes a hard-driving force behind identity that stifles creativity and puts pressure on relationships.

For a perfectionist, a challenge presents a Win/Fail opportunity; the lessons learned along the way are not always seen. The journey is bleak and fraught with self-defeat.

If you win you are a Winner, if you fail you are a Failure. It’s deeply personal, internalized, and insulated.

I’ve set unusually high, often unobtainable, standards for myself. I was counseled at some point in my early academic career to remember, “Even when you know you’ve done a good job, always remember someone else has done better than you”. I grabbed on tightly to the idea that if someone out performed me, I was not as much of a blessing to my family.

Second Place is really First Loser.

I got paid for A’s on my report card; B’s awarded me a lecture on how I didn’t work hard enough. Couple that mentality with the majority of my childhood friends being high-level over-achievers who ranked higher than me, I often felt sub-par. I was exhibiting disordered stress patterns in the 2nd Grade.

 

Sometimes these standards trickle over onto the people closest to me.

When I am tough on myself, I become tough on everyone around me. I feel angry, judgmental and hypercritical. My power cord is plugged in the wrong outlet of criticism and punishment instead of love and understanding.

In my professional life, I have found some balance to perfectionism. It has driven me to pursue high quality education from exceptional teachers, and I have created a practice model not typically found in the massage therapy profession in my community. However, when I try to expand on the ideas of growing professionally, building my practice, and designing a new practice model, perfection paralysis takes hold and stops me in my tracks. The little “you aren’t good enough” voice speaks up.

I feel unworthy and useless when my ideas don’t pan out the way I expected them to.

When I can’t seem to figure out how social media or network marketing works, or newsletters go unopened, ignored and unread, I hear, “nobody cares about what you have to say. Nobody cares about you”! And, for some, that may be true; opening myself up to share my story makes me feel exposed.

I am opening myself up to outside criticism and judgment, and Perfectionist Me is freaking out.

 

There are other times when I’m plugged into something way more powerful and I feel alive and on fire.

Self-acceptance and love wash over me and I feel like I can do anything I set my mind to. In this space I feel like setbacks are lessons, not attacks, and I have the calm perspective to see the proper course correction needed to get back on track. I feel inspired, plugged into genius, brilliance and divinity. Options are available, lessons are learned gracefully, and my growth and maturity level up.

I can lovingly laugh at myself. I feel relaxed.

This is where I want to live all of the time!

 

I’m slowly learning to positively and truthfully re-identify myself.

For me, this has been a deeply spiritual lesson, and I greatly rely on my mentors at the church my husband and I attend. I have been loved and challenged at the same time, and the newfound conclusions I am coming to, based off of God’s Love, have been difficult, rewarding, and much needed.

My closest friends, my connection network, are also an integral part of helping me learn, as Brene Brown calls it, “the gifts of imperfection”. I can trust them to not demand perfection from me, and they continuously remind me to be gentle to myself. I know they have the courage and strength to hear my story and support me in it, and sometimes help lift me out of it.

They have the stamina to love me, not despite my imperfections, but because of them.

 

As to the other bits that fire up my perfectionism, with a lot of talk therapy, research and prayer on the issues at hand, I’ve come to understand some things are out of my hands and will always be out of my hands.

It’s not worth it to harshly criticize myself for other peoples’ actions. What others do in their lives has no significant impact on my own.

We all have agency for our own actions, and not everyone is going to like everyone else. I can’t please everyone no matter how hard I try, and I am not a failure if I fail to make people like me.

I regularly remind myself I can only do what I can do, when I can do it.

 

With more love, understanding, and acceptance of myself, and everyone around me, recognizing we are all imperfect people, life feels sweeter, more brilliant, and divine. There is more flow and less crashing.

There is more compassion and empathy.

Challenges are met with grace and gentleness, and don’t feel like personal attacks, but opportunities to really learn what I am capable of. I just may surprise myself!

I can certainly deal with more of that in my life. I crave more of that in my life.

I think the world needs more understanding and acceptance and less criticism and judgment. It starts here, with myself.

It’s completely my choice, despite any challenge or adversity that comes my way, to choose not to let the stress of perfectionism in when it knocks on the door.

Do I choose criticism, or patience? Judgment, or understanding?

I choose gentleness and love. Perfectionism can knock, but she can’t come in.

 

 

 

Massage Therapy Is Sometimes The Most Effective Choice

Massage Therapy Is Sometimes The Most Effective Choice

I believe manual therapy is one of the most underutilized therapeutic interventions in our current healthcare paradigm.

 

Musculoskeletal stress and injury is the leading cause of sickness related workplace absenteeism, and the most diagnosed condition during doctor’s office visits.

In a study of global disease in December 2012, it was found that musculoskeletal disease is the second leading cause of disability and has the fourth greatest impact on global health and longevity.

 

The population at large is really missing out on something very effective and useful.IMG_3388cmyk

Wikipedia defines Manual Therapy as, “Manual therapy, or manipulative therapy, is a physical treatment primarily used by massage therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, and osteopathic physicians to treat musculoskeletal pain and disability; it most commonly includes kneading and manipulation of muscles, joint mobilization and joint manipulation.”

For the sake of Scope of Practice issues, I will only comment on the value of manual therapy from the perspective of a massage therapist, to which I humbly profess my professional allegiance, in context with my own education and experience.

In other words, as a massage therapist with oodles of training, my scope of practice does differ than say, a fresh graduate.

I claim Doctors of Sports Medicine, Osteopathic Physicians, Physical Therapists, Biomechanists and Chiropractors amongst my teachers.

This gives me a little more insight and perspective into the issues with your tissues, and provides me with a more comprehensive approach to assessing and addressing your aches, pains, and injury complaints.

 

No, I will not crack your back for you.

Yes, I can manipulate and mobilize soft tissues to free up movement and provide for greater, more effective movement economy.

 

I also shamelessly do a victory dance when research studies assert the efficacy of what I provide my clients.

For instance, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found among the leading manual therapy resources of massage therapy, spinal manipulation, and acupuncture, massage therapy outperformed the other therapies.

Another nod to the efficacy of massage therapy comes from the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). In this study, participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups, 1) comprehensive manual therapy, which included soft tissue manipulation, remedial exercise and posture reeducation, 2) manual therapy only, 3) remedial exercise with posture reeducation only, and 4) placebo treatment of sham laser therapy.

 

Of the four groups, the comprehensive massage group showed statistically significant improvements in improved function, less intense pain, and a decrease in the quality of pain.

 

Furthermore, at the 1-month follow-up, the comprehensive massage group reported no pain in 63% of it’s subjects versus 27% of the soft-tissue manipulation group, 14% of the remedial exercises and 0% improvement of the sham laser therapy users.

If you need more information to justify calling a well-trained massage therapist for your aches and pains, and so I can do some more victory dancing, you can find more support for massage therapy here and here.

A good Google Scholar query will also provide numerous studies supporting acupuncture and spinal manipulation, either chiropractic or osteopathic (yes, they can be different), and movement based physical therapy programs.

 

Different strokes for different folks, and all that.

Like I said, I claim allegiance to my profession and I do see greater need for all of us manual therapists to work together instead of back-biting and ego-driven in-fighting.

Yeah, there’s a lot of school yard shenanigans amongst us manual cowboys and cowgirls.

 

[shrug]

 

I think it does the most disservice to you, dear reader who-has-aches-and-pains-and-would-just-like-some-relief.

No wonder the medical community-at-large roll their eyes and shake their heads at us sometimes.

I shake my head at us too.

And no wonder, despite ample evidence supporting it’s effectiveness, why manual therapy is so often disregarded as a viable and useful option in your recovery program.

At the end of the day, you shake your head at us as well.

 

 

 

Reach Out and Touch Someone

Reach Out and Touch Someone

One of my biggest pet peeves is learning more about my loved ones on Facebook than by actually spending quality time with them.

Know what I mean?

When the cogs and wheels of the machine of my life really get going, it’s easy for me to put the blinders on, keep my nose to the grindstone, and fail to connect to the people that mean the most to me.

I’m so not okay with this!

 

Let’s be real:

Is the minutiae of life more important than our loved ones?

Are we really that important, or do we just want to feel important?

Who do we want to be important to?

 

In today’s Self-care Tuesday, we’re talking connection.

 

 

 

Can I challenge you?

How long has it been since you sat down with the one person who seems to keep popping into your mind?

You see their status updates and feel like you are participating in life with them, but when was the last time you sat across from a table with them, or at the very least, heard the sound of their voice?

Maybe it’s time to phone a friend.

 

Reach Out and Touch Someone

Make a call. Set a date.

Coffee. Tea. Cocktails.

Play date. Walking date. Slumber party.

If you need to re-connect to yourself, find a way to slow down and quiet down in order to touch base with yourself.

Are you are on the right path at the right pace for your priorities, preferences, and goals?

Maybe you need to re-connect with something bigger than yourself.

Source. Universe. Nature. God.

Whatever you call it, phone that friend too.

 

Connection is Vital to Health

Human connection is super important to health and well-being.

Having friends on Facebook is more of a relationship with a computer screen, not an actual person.

Living in social media isolation is not true connection, nor is health promoting.

 

Make the call. Set it up. Hear a voice. See a smile.

I assure you, connecting is going to fill your tank in an amazing way.

You will feel inspired, loved, important, and energetic.

And as an added benefit, with the energy hanging out with your loved ones provides, you will experience a tremendous boost of excitement and motivation when it comes to that busy to-do list!

 

Now it’s your turn!

In the comments below, tell us who you are going to connect with.

Consider it a “cosmic contract” and a promise to yourself.

How long has it been since you’ve seen this person? What would meeting and re-connecting with them mean to you?

 

 

 

 

Are You Deficient in Vitamin N?

Are You Deficient in Vitamin N?

Sometimes I look around and I see more concrete than grass.

More tall buildings than trees.

Hear more blaring car horns than chirping birds.

Smell more gasoline fumes than sweetly fragrant flowers.

 

We live in an Urban Jungle.

And like all nutrients important to your health and well-being, Vitamin N is quite essential.

 

 

Vitamin N?

That isn’t on the supplement label of my multi-vitamin. What’s the RDA of that?

Can I put that into my blender bottle protein shake?

 

Vitamin Nature

Studies have shown time spent in nature is a sure-fire way of getting out of your own head.

In science speak, that time stuck in your head is called rumination.

Rumination is the over-thinking or obsessing over of situations or relationships, and is thought to be responsible for a wide array of negative consequences such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addictive behaviors.

Could it really be so easy as to spend time outdoors to clear the static in your attic?

 

Clear your Mind. Soothe your Soul.

I think the musings of John Muir, Naturalist, Environmental Philosopher, and Preservation Advocate, sums up the outdoors in the most romantically poetic nature:

Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.    (From Our National Parks)

That single quote above makes me want to grab my tent out of the garage, tie up my hiking boots and head out to a place with no cell service.

 

But Responsibilities

It’s not easy spending a week (or two) in a national park.

Deadlines. Responsibilities. Finals. Graduations. Dance Recitals.

Life happens regardless, and not many of us can just pack up and haul out.

Not many also have the skill set and desire to “camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows”.

Climbing mountains is hard, dangerous work. I wouldn’t recommend just heading out.

 

So How Do Us Urban Dwellers Get Our Nature On?

Kick off your shoes and walk barefoot in the grass.

Plant some flowers and get some dirt under your fingernails.

Splash around in puddles.

The opportunities are as endless as your imagination allows, and your willingness to get a little dirty.

 

As I write this, I hear a gentle rainfall outside. The windows are wide open so I can fully hear it, as well as experience the cool caress of the crisp breeze accompanying it.

I made plans and reservations earlier today to go camping for two nights with the Hubs in a few weeks for our 17th wedding anniversary.

I hiked in two different local forest preserves this past weekend.

I like to get my Vitamin N in in as many varied, super-dosed ways as possible.

 

How do you like to spend time communing with nature?

Share your most favorite Vitamin N stories below.

How do you spend time outdoors?

What benefits do you feel after some essential time in nature?

(and if you know of any great hiking trails…let me know! I’m always up for a new adventure)