The importance of keeping your neck warm!

My sister (who owns Island Yarn Company) tells me that cowls are all the rage this year, which makes me quite happy. But why would I be writing about it on my massage website?

Close your eyes for a minute and think about being outside in that frigid air, with no protection around your neck. Think about what happens to your posture. You hike your shoulders up to your ears. You roll your shoulders in. You push your head forward. All those upper back and neck muscles tense up.Your neck is not designed to hold your head in that position. Your upper back has trouble balancing the strong force of your chest muscles pulling your shoulders in.  It’s painful just thinking about it!  Now…stop thinking about that! Yeesh! That was a cruel activity for me to inflict upon you!

B-R-R-R-ing me a NECK WARMER!

B-R-R-R-ing me a NECK WARMER!

 

Do this instead: Think about what it’s like to go out in that same frigid air, but with a nice, thick, warm neck warmer protecting you! Can you feel your shoulders relaxing? See how your head goes back into a more natural position? Doesn’t that feel better?

Look Ma! No hunched shoulders!

Look Ma! No hunched shoulders!

Here’s an assignment for you. Dig it out of your closet, buy it from a store, borrow it from your friend, make it yourself…do whatever it takes to get a scarf, neck warmer or cowl around that aching neck. (Well, don’t mug anybody for it, but you get my drift of snowbrain thoughts). And while you’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt to throw a hat on your lovely head too :)

BONUS:  There’s also an Accupressure point, at the top of the shoulder blades, called Bearing Support, which helps to strengthen the immune system. It is particularly helpful with resisting colds and flus. I’ve been told that keeping this point warm during the winter season is very helpful in resistance to colds and flus. If your neck warming device is thick enough, I’m quite sure it will keep that accupressure point warm!

And as a thank you to my sister for keeping me updated on these things, I’m going to blatantly plug her store. You can buy gorgeous (and I mean GORGEOUS), hand-dyed yarn from her to make your neck warmers, cowls, and scarves. (The hat and cowl in the above picture are made from that GORGEOUS yarn). Go check out her website if you are, or know, a knitter or crocheter… Island Yarn Company.

 

 

Neck Pain Management

It would be great if just getting massage would keep your neck pain away, but I’m not going to pretend that massage alone is some kind of magical cure.  Managing chronic pain of any kind takes diligence. As a sufferer of chronic neck pain, I’d like to tell you some of the things that I do to manage the pain. These are not prescriptions, just some ideas of things that you might try to help yourself at home between massage appointments (and I don’t get any compensation for any products I recommend).

Move EVERY day. If you’ve been following my blog at all, you’ve heard it before. If you missed it, click here.

Stretch. Especially the chest muscles. If you’ve been to my office for neck pain, chances are good that I’ve shown you the doorway stretch. If not, give me a call, and we’ll arrange something! One of these years I will get some pictures or videos of some good stretches posted.

For those of you who might like to venture into yoga, but don’t want to take a class, I highly recommend DVDs by Sara Ivanhoe. Her technique is very gentle and she usually has modifications for all different levels.

Along with the stretches, consider doing some strengthening exercises for the upper back and neck. Ask your favorite personal trainer for specific suggestions.

Create a goal to REALLY focus on better posture. Find ways to remind yourself. Put a note by your computer! Ask a buddy to give you a little nudge when they see you slouching. And be patient with yourself…bad habits are hard to break, but you can do it!

Heat packs. Or alternating hot and cold packs. Great for circulation!

Press on the knots. Your body instictively knows where to press. There are tools for the hard to reach places.

Try various shapes and densities of balls…tennis, bouncy rubber balls, lacrosse balls. I recommend sticking the ball in a long sock and draping the sock over the shoulder to reach spots on the upper back. Then stand against a wall to apply the pressure.

You might like a Backnobber or a Theracane, if a ball is not your cup of tea.  If you’d like to see how it works, just ask next time you are at my office!

Remember: don’t press so hard that it’s a “bad” kind of hurt. Don’t bruise yourself. Be gentle. Whenever you have a kink in your shoulder, be sure to work gently on the spot a few times a day for about a minute at a time.

TENS machines. I don’t even think you need a prescription for these any more, and I believe the over-the-counter ones are reasonably priced. Be sure to ask your doctor or physical therapist how to use these units.

Traction machines. I think you probably have to go to a physical therapist to get one of these. All I know is that my physical therapist made it possible for me to get one paid for by my insurance company, so it never hurts to ask.

Last, but certainly not least…get yourself on a regular (at least monthly) massage schedule. You knew that was coming…it wouldn’t be a proper massage therapy site without a plug for regular massage, now would it?

Therapeutic Massage as a Preventative

     I don’t want to sound like I’m just trying to get you to buy more massage, but it may come off sounding that way, because, after all, what is good for you, is good for me too.  However, I have another sincere goal here. And that is to help people understand what an amazing thing they will be doing for themselves if they use consistently scheduled therapeutic massage as a preventative technique to help them manage pain.

     When you get massage on a regular schedule, the beneficial effects that you gain will build with each session. It will have a cumulative effect. You all probably have experienced how pain builds on itself and continues to get worse if not treated. Well, if you consistently treat pain, the positive effects of that treatment can also build.

     In your everyday life, you experience a variety of different stresses. Stress causes your muscles to tighten (contract). Too much stress can cause too much contracting. Too much contracting has multiple detrimental effects, among them high blood pressure and stress on the joints. When muscles are tight, they are placing a lot of force on other structures of the body, such as joints, blood vessels and nerves. That force not only causes pain, but it can wear down protective structures such as the discs in your spine. That force can raise your blood pressure and lead to heart disease. That force can cause inflammation in your joints. The body tries to protect itself from too much force in any way that it can, which often leads to imbalance.  If you have a chronic illness caused by stress, you KNOW what it does to your quality of life.

     Now, think about what your quality of life would be like if you had less pain. I can’t take away all the stress in your life, but I can help you to experience the benefits of relaxation. Massage can help by loosening tight muscles and toning lax muscles, thereby helping to create balance in the body. Balanced muscles will not exert excessive force on other structures in your body. Believe me when I say that balanced muscles feel so much better than unbalanced muscles!

Studies have shown that massage reduces the levels of stress hormones in the body.

 It also increases white blood cells, which play a major role in your immune system and fighting off illness.

It also increases oxytocin, endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, all of which make you feel good. 

Studies have also shown that there is a cumulative effect of the benefits, when you continue with regularly scheduled sessions.

      And you might keep this in mind too…massage is a NON-invasive method of dealing with pain.

     Just a note here about what I’m talking about when I say “consistent” massage. This can vary from person to person and from situation to situation. At the least, a monthly massage would be very good for you, but if you can manage bi-weekly or even weekly, I’m sure you will not regret the investment of time and money. People ask me how often I receive massage. Since opening my private office, I have been able to be fairly consistent in getting a massage every other week, and I can honestly say that I feel like I can function so much better than when I was not consistent.  I would love for all of you to be able to experience the benefits of regular massage appointments. I hope you will give it some serious consideration.

     *I know that affordability is an issue for many people, so please check out my plan (HERE) to help make regular appointment affordable.

Oxytocin instead of Oxycontin!

Oxytocin instead of  OxyContin!

Did you know?

Oxytocin is a hormone released by your own body that helps you feel good.

OxyContin is an opiate painkiller that can be highly addictive.

So, maybe you’d like to try a little Oxytocin before you resort to OxyContin. How?

I bet you can guess what I’m going to say.

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

Oxytocin is released during massage!

And as a bonus, a rise in Oxytocin levels can relieve pain!

There are studies going on that are showing the part that Oxytocin may be playing in reducing stress and anxiety levels.  Be sure to go do a little research about it if I’ve sparked your interest. It’s actually pretty fascinating!

Oxycontin

Oxytocin

 

 

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Come in to Juniper Therapeutic Massage and try out the Integrated Massage  or the Orthopedic Neck Treatment that I offer…

*Integrated Massage :

Integrated Massage takes into account what your needs are based on discussion between you and your therapist. A few of the techniques that may be used in your session include: the traditional relaxation massage, deep tissue techniques, stretching, hot or cold therapy, trigger point therapy, deep breathing, and energy work.

 

*Orthopedic Neck Treatment (80 minute minimum)

This treatment focuses the whole session on the neck, upper back, and chest using special orthopedic techniques. Hot stones and ice massage may be included. It is recommended that this treatment be done for several weeks in a row, with a treatment at least once a week, followed by a maintenance schedule of once a month.

Massage can help arthritis pain!

Arthritis is a PAIN! Massage can help to manage the pain!

Research supports the idea that regular massage helps manage arthritis pain and stiffness, and helps to improve functioning of the joints. If you are interested in reading about some of the research in this area just head on over to the website for the Touch Research Institute.

I think the most interesting aspect of this idea is that massage can help to break the pain cycle. Pain makes it harder to sleep and harder to move. When you don’t get enough good sleep and/or you don’t move enough, that leads to more pain. Pain makes it harder to sleep and harder to move. And on and on and on and on! If you live with pain, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about! 

You’ve probably heard of the “fight or flight” response. That is the sympathetic nervous system kicking in. BUT, there is also the parasympathetic nervous system which is otherwise known as the “rest and digest” system. When you get a massage, your parasympathetic nervous system kicks into gear.

Increased parasympathetic nervous system activity=Your body relaxes

Your body relaxes=Better sleep and Easier movement

Better sleep and Easier movement=Less pain

Less pain=Your body relaxes

Your body relaxes=Better sleep and Easier movement

Better sleep and Easier movement=Less pain

Less pain!

Also, when you get a massage your body produces more of a hormone called Oxytocin, that makes you feel good. (Massage also decreases certain stress hormones).

Increase of good hormones=Your body relaxes

Your body relaxes=Better sleep and Easier movement

Better sleep and Easier movement=Less pain

Less pain=Your body relaxes

Your body relaxes=Better sleep and Easier movement

Better sleep and Easier movement=Less pain

Less pain!

 

 

So, the only thing left to say is:

Give massage a try!