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Medical Massage Therapist

Body Mechanics

Make it Easy on Yourself

A nice benefit accompanying  an education in massage therapy is learning about proper body mechanics—how to lessen or avoid physical stress and injury. Becoming aware of how you use (and sometimes misuse) your body can help you to stay healthier and to feel better between massage sessions.

Whether you are sitting or standing; pushing or pulling; or lifting and holding something, the way you use your body will influence your physical health. For instance, just keeping a wallet in your back pocket can throw your back out of alignment because of the way it changes your body mechanics when you sit.

Body positions are so important to your health. A perfect example is the strain put on your back, neck and shoulders when you look down when standing. The next time you’re doing dishes, look mostly straight ahead instead of down and see what a difference it makes.

The following information comes from a popular book among bodyworkers called Body Mechanics for Manual Therapists, written by Barbara Frye. Hopefully, you’ll find this information beneficial.

“Body awareness is where it all starts. Without it, we blindly go through our work not realizing how our movements, responses, sensations and feelings affect our health.

“Body awareness is a mindfulness of your body’s movements, responses, sensations and feelings. As you develop this mindfulness or consciousness of your body, you become aware of subtle patterns, for example, the position of your shoulders while you read, or the shifting of your weight when you stand.

“Once you become aware of your body and your habits of movement, you can begin to discover which movement habits serve you and which ones hinder and cause you discomfort, pain and injury.

“Standing is a basic and foundational position from which all other body mechanics are performed. ... Your body must continue to move or ‘sway’ in varying degrees in order to keep itself in balance, ...  so don’t fight its natural movement.

“Trying to stand ‘straight’ takes your skeleton out of its natural alignment and requires your muscles to work very hard to hold a ‘straight’ posture. The next time you feel yourself trying to stand ‘straight,’ relax and allow the natural shape of your skeleton to support you.

“Whether you stand with your feet parallel to each other or with one foot forward, your legs must transmit the weight of your body down to your feet equally.

“When standing, it is important to keep your upper body vertical and balanced over your pelvis, legs and feet. ... Keeping your center of gravity over your feet lets your upper body move without restriction, allowing your shoulders, arms and hands to move freely.

“Sitting is believed to cause the majority of back pain in this country. This is due to the fact that people tend to sit in a slouched or slumped position for hours at a time, increasing the pressure on their lower back. ... Overall there is an increased risk of pain and stress to the lower and upper back as well as the neck. Sitting with your upper body vertically balanced over your pelvis allows your low back to maintain its lumbar curve, decreasing the pressure from flexion (bending of a joint). Not only does it allow your low back to relax, it also allows your entire back to keep its natural curves, reducing excessive muscular effort. ... When sitting it is important that your knees are the same height as your hips. ... Finding the right width for your legs helps maintain your stability and vertical balance, and reduces muscular tension.

“When lifting, it is very important that you get as close to the weight as possible, without losing your own stability. ... When you stand away from the weight, your back must bend and lean in order for your arms and hands to reach the weight. This puts a tremendous strain on the muscles and vertebrae of your back. It also requires the muscles of your arms and shoulders to work hard, first to reach the weight and then to lift it.
“ ‘Lift with your legs, not your back’ is a phrase commonly used when discussing the body mechanics of lifting. ... Lifting with your legs means you are using the power of your lower body to lift the weight. Instead of bending from your back and putting strain on your spine and upper body, bend from your hip joints and knees, and use the power of your legs.”

As you know, massage can help to return your body to a better functional state, as well as helping you to maintain it. These tips should help you between sessions. So, take care of yourself; see you soon!

© 2006 Massage Marketing. Used with permission. All rights reserved

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Oh, My Aching Back!

Maintaining a healthy back is vital to your overall health.  As your own "information super highway" runs through your spinal cord--sending messages that affect every aspect of your health --you want to do everything possible to facilitate its proper function.

An ancient adage from Yoga states " You are as young as your spine is flexable."  We have all seen a younger person with back pain moving along like an octogenarian, or a supple senior citizen dancing as if she were still in her teens.

It is estimated that apporximately 80 percent of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives.  As the most common cause of discomfort and disability for people under fourty-five, it is also the main reason people miss work, second only to the common cold.  Anyone who has had a serious bout with back pain knows how debilitation it can be.

Several things can precipitate back pain, amoung them tension, trauma or stain; improper sleeping positions; and sedentary lifestyles (lots of sitting, desks jobs, etc.). Pregnancy often is accompanied by back pain due to the added weight the mother-to-be carries in her lower abdomen.  If you find your back starting to act up, being aware of potential problems and seeking to correct them is an excellent first step.  If your job requires you to sit at a desk a good part of the time, you may find quick relief in getting up frequently.  An exercise regime including stretching, swimming, walking, or weight training also proves helpful in dealing with back pain.

In today's bustling world, tension is often found to be the culprit.  Whether brought about by stressful situations, poor posture, improper body alignment, etc., the result is the same.  Certain muscles tense (the muscle fibers contract) and fail to relax properly.  When this occurs in the back, it can begin to affect the body structually, causing further problems.

Another typical source of back pain is muscle strain.  When you overexert a back muscle, it can seize up in an effort to protect itself from further injury.

The good news is that the most back pain can be prevented by keeping the muscles and joints supple and mobile, greatly aided through regular massge sessions.  Through its stretching and relaxing strokes, massage is quite effective for restoring the normal range of motion and for easing muscle spasms.  Sometimes a deeper massage is emplyed to release areas of chronic tension and to increase blood circulation to the area.  Let's work together to keep your back happy!

Copyright 2006 Massage Marketing. Used with permission.  All rights reserved.

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Streching for Better Mobility

We've all heard the saying, "Use it or lose it."  It's all too easy to lose your flexibility over the years through lack of activity.  And since many physical changes happen so gradually, one day you find yourself wondering where your mobility went.

This lack of movement leads to an achy tightness in those unused muscle groups.  As one group of muscles goes unused, your body begins to change position (picture someone with poor posture) and another set of muscles reacts be becoming tighter.  Without proper use, your body tends to adjust more permanently to this new position, further restricting your range of motion.

Another cause of tightness is through overuse of a muscle or muscle group.  We've all experienced pushing ourselves beyond our limits of conditioning.  Physically, a muscle has some give and take form it's normal "at rest" position.  According to exercise physiologist Linda DiCarlo at Georgia Tech University in Atlanta, when a muscle clenched, tiny fibers loosen theri grips and slide back the other way.  When used past their comfort point, muscles remain in a semi-contracted state.  Regular stretching exercises can ease the tightness that limits range of motion.  But be patient!  Just as these changes happen very gradually over the years, you should allow yourself plenty of time to begin correcting these trouble areas.

Your regular massage sessions also contribute to improving your range of motion and keeping you limber and lithe.  If you would like more information regarding stretching, please be sure to ask at your next session.

Copyright 2006 Massage Marketing. Used with permission.  All rights reserved.