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13/Dec/2018

Sciatica and piriformis syndrome both create pain in the low back, buttocks, and back of the leg. Often they bring numbness, tingling, or even weakness with them. Sometimes they make simple things such as walking, sitting, or driving a car painful and difficult prospects. 

Sciatica and piriformis syndrome in brief

Sciatica refers to pain arising from pressure on the sciatic nerve. This nerve travels from the lower spine, through the buttock, and down the leg to the foot. Disc problems in the lower back, spinal stenosis, and bone spurs are common culprits of pressure on the nerve. Typically, sciatica sends pain signals from the low back down the back of the leg and only occurs on one side of the body.

Piriformis syndrome comprises a set of muscular issues that cause sciatica-like symptoms. It gets its name from the piriformis muscle, which lies underneath the gluteus maximus, and crosses the back of the buttocks. This muscle can get tight, it can press on the sciatic nerve, and it can stress the joint. Sometimes people can have both a bone and a muscle pressing on the nerve.

How massage can help

Generally speaking, massage can help ease pain. In our experience with sciatica and piriformis syndrome, massage helps the tight muscle part of the equation the most. It has much less influence on pain from a bone or disc problem.

If a tight piriformis muscle is the main culprit, massage can make a significant difference in alleviating the pain. Softening the tension can relieve tender spots in the buttocks and referred pain to the leg, back, and groin. It can also ease pressure on the nerve itself and allow the joint to align properly.

If the pain stems from a bone or disc problem, massage may not help as much. At most, in our experience, it allows for temporary relief. Of course, this type of sciatic pain can lead to muscle tension around the nerve pathway that can increase pain. In this case, massage can help alleviate the additional pain and sense of tension. So, massage might still benefit people who have sciatica, just not as fully as it can help those who have piriformis syndrome.

When sciatica arises during pregnancy, the same rules apply. The more the pain stems from muscular tension, the better massage helps. In some cases, however, the pain never fully resolves until the end of the pregnancy.

Massage for sciatica or piriformis syndrome will focus on the posterior hip of the affected side, that is the butt. The therapist may also work the low back and leg depending on specific symptoms and time. The therapist may employ a range of techniques including focused direct pressure massage, light gliding massage, and stretching. Sometimes, the client wears sports attire and does movements along with the massage therapist. Most typically, clients use massage as part of an integrative care approach that also involves their medical team and physical therapist.

 


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13/Dec/2018

For those struggling with Fibromyalgia, the added demands and stresses of the holiday season can lead to one that is anything but happy as pain and fatigue levels often flare. How can one navigate the season while minimizing any additional discomfort?

by Susan Fishell

In the seven years that I have lived with Fibromyalgia, I have learned that wisely choosing my activities, enlisting help, taking shortcuts, using magnesium products and scheduling a mandatory rest period can make a significant difference in managing my pain levels. It is my hope that these tips will be of benefit to anyone living with chronic pain who is struggling to make it through the season.

Pick your favorites

The first and most important tip I have learned is to choose my activities carefully. A wise friend recently suggested that I choose the activities that are most life-giving to me. What activities energize you, bring you joy, feed your spirit? Whenever possible, choose those over the ones that you dread doing, that suck you dry or stress you out. Save your limited energy for that favorite activity that brings the holiday to life for you. For me it is sitting in a sanctuary filled with white lights listening to the reading of the Christmas story or a family outing in our old pick-up to find the “perfect” tree. Perhaps for you it is cooking a favorite family recipe or watching much loved holiday movie. Whatever it is, always expend your energy on those about which you are passionate and eliminate those that fill you with stress.

Accept a hand

Secondly, enlist help and take shortcuts. Don’t be afraid to admit that you can’t tackle all the holiday projects that you used to do. Because I loved writing individual notes in all my Christmas cards, it took me several seasons of arm and shoulder flare-ups before I reluctantly admitted to myself that I could no longer manage this activity without help. Now my husband types on the PC for me the letter that I write and also assists in the addressing of the envelopes. Baking and cooking with all of the stirring, chopping, measuring and cleaning up, can easily flare arms, shoulders and back muscles. After learning this fact the hard way,  I have sought over the last few years the assistance of my teen neighbors, my son’s girlfriend and my daughter-in-law to assist in baking my Christmas sweets. They go home with bags of freshly baked goodies, and I have a supply to share at family gatherings or to give as gifts to friends – a win-win for us all. For me, nothing can cause pain to arise quicker than a shopping trip especially if it requires carrying items in my arms or pushing a cart.  Skip it all by shopping on-line or taking advantage of some of the new services that retailers are offering where they shop for you and then deliver your purchases to your waiting vehicle. Forego wrapping presents by using gift bags or better yet give a gift card or money gift which eliminates either altogether. Instead of decorating your entire house, focus on the room where you spend the most time. If you put your mind to it, I am sure there are many more shortcuts that you can devise to conserve your energy and prevent painful muscle fatigue.

Self care

Next, magnesium! Over the past several years, I have discovered the amazing properties of this essential mineral which relaxes muscles and can alleviate pain. Many Fibromyalgia patients are deficient in it so have your doctor check your levels if you have never done so. Whenever I begin to experience the muscle soreness that feels like you have just completed a 10k race, I pull out my Epsom Salts and go soak in a bath filled with them. Not only is it soothing and relaxing, but these soaks plus the application of a magnesium lotion or oil eliminate my soreness within 24-48 hours. Ancient Minerals and Life-Flo are two providers of these products. If you have sensitive skin, apply these products sparingly at first as they may sting when initially applied and can have a drying impact if used for a prolonged period of time.  If you have your doctor’s approval, a magnesium supplement may also benefit you. I use a magnesium citrate supplement called Natural Calm as it is more easily absorbed by the body than the magnesium oxide pills that you often find in the vitamin aisle. I mix the Natural Calm with water to make a fizzy flavored liquid that I drink about two hours before bed. As a bonus the magnesium may help your sleep too. Too much magnesium, however, can act as a laxative so it is important to discuss with your doctor the appropriate dosage for you to take.

Rest

Lastly, accept that you may need more rest time as you juggle the holiday’s demands and stresses. Allot a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes per day for relaxing your muscles in a place free of distractions and interruptions. If you are not a napper, listen to the music of the season, watch a Christmas movie (Did anyone say Hallmark channel?) or listen to a holiday story on-line or on CD. Make this time a top priority as it is hard to enjoy the holidays if you are in constant pain.

If you find all of the above a pipe dream because it takes all of your energy just to roll out of bed in the morning knowing that every movement brings pain, I get it. I have been there and I pray I never go back!  Instead, take a baby step. Make soaking in an Epsom salt bath your first priority. Push yourself to do something easy and enjoyable like a drive to look at Christmas lights and decorations. Don’t let Fibromyalgia win by robbing you of the joy of Christmas! You can get better. I am living proof of that. There is hope! After all, isn’t that what the Christmas story is all about?  A tiny baby is born bringing with him hope for us all including the hope of healing and relief from pain. Hold onto that hope now as you begin the baby steps that can lead to a relatively normal life that while not entirely pain-free is significantly better than the place you find yourself now. Take that first step!


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13/Dec/2018

Breaking the law

California prosecutors recently filed a false advertising lawsuit against lifestyle brand Goop. The online retailer, helmed by Gwyneth Paltrow, settled for $145,000. The prosecutors specifically listed three wellness products in the filing.

Quite frankly, the products listed, seemed to be marketed in a manner consistent with wellness advertising everywhere. That is, the description of the products included possible health benefits. Two yoni stones said to “balance hormones,” amongst other things, and an essential oil blend claiming to “prevent depression.”

The lawsuit stated this amounted to false advertising using unfounded claims. No medical evidence exists to support or contradict the purported health benefits of the products. Other wellness-related companies, such as DoTerra and Young Living, have had similar legal trouble. Both were reprimanded for representing their essential oils as pharmaceuticals.

Scientific Evidence

While wellness products and complementary therapies gain popularity, research remains elusive. Many such health-related offerings stem from traditional healing practices from around the world. Practices that pre-date modern medicine. However, these types of remedies rarely have strong (if any) scientific research to support them.

Massage therapy, for one, still has a long way to go in terms of quality evidence. For example, the massage industry has claimed for years that massage decreases the stress hormone cortisol. In fact, the current body of evidence does not support this claim. A 2010 meta-analysis concluded that the evidence at that time was inconclusive at best. A quick search of studies since then still show conflicting results. Some positive, some neutral, and some negative.

Massage therapy carries with it a long history of other unsupported claims including:

  • Massage releases toxins, which has never been studied. Indeed “toxin” has not even been defined in this context.
  • Massage increases circulation, which has conflicting evidence.
  • Massage improves immunity, which has not been well studied. (Although promising preliminary studies exist.)
  • Massage releases endorphins, which only has one study of 12 people behind it.

Massage therapists do not typically make these statements about massage with the intention of deceiving. In fact, many schools still teach their students these “facts.” As research improves and the body of evidence grows, marketing language should, hopefully, become more accurate as well.

Clear Language

In our own content, we try to be very careful and clear around our language. In keeping with scientific practices, when discussing the benefits of our services, we use the term “can” when a benefit has some decent research behind it. We use the term “may” when less evidence exists. If almost zero research exists we try to highlight that and discuss instead the tradition or theory of the work. We avoid concrete terms such as “proven” or “will,” because nothing is 100%. We also provide links to published research when applicable.

Wellness products can be a little trickier. We only carry products that we believe will have some benefit to our clients whether for pain relief, stress relief, or just plain fun. Certainly, not all products have gone through rigorous scientific testing to support their efficacy. However, we do need to describe the intended use of the product.

Foam rollers actually do have some supporting research. The Cranio Cradle and Thera Cane do not. Some essential oils have research into their effects, most don’t. In these cases, we try to use phrases such as “intended for headache relief” or “people use this product to boost energy.” Therefore highlighting the benefit without making a health claim.

No Fear

It can get tricky, and we probably do it wrong sometimes. However we make a concerted effort to use accurate and clear communication in our marketing. Some health advertising tactics we have seen seem quite unethical. For example, fear-based campaigns, characterizing something as a “miracle cure,” or capitalizing on people’s insecurities.

At Nimbus, we are about helping people in their wellness journeys. We like to think of ourselves as  warm, welcoming, and reassuring. We like to think of Nimbus as a safe, supportive, knowledgeable resource for complementary care. And we think what we do helps people in a meaningful way without us having to embellish. No gimmicks, no fads, no fakery.


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13/Dec/2018

Have you ever gone to a beginner yoga class and just felt like you couldn’t keep up? By the time you got yourself into one pose everyone had done two more and you didn’t know how to catch up? You thought yoga was supposed to be relaxing but this was just stressful!

Not for true beginners

Even a “Level 1” beginner yoga class can be intimidating or inaccessible if you lack experience, flexibility, or strength. Although most poses have multiple aspects to them, group yoga classes often assume that attendees already have a basic understanding of the form and function of common poses. Rather than teaching the “how to,” many classes simply lead students through a complex sequencing of postures.

If you have found yourself lost in a basic class check out a foundational group class or private lesson. These classes go more slowly and break down each pose so that you can get started the right way. With a good foundation of understanding, you can get more out of your yoga practice.

Starting from zero

Learn the correct alignment – A pose might look simple, but there’s actually a lot going on. For example, Mountain Pose (Tadasana) is a simple standing posture. However, it takes a lot of body awareness and muscle engagement to move away from our “natural” standing posture. By slowing down, you can take the time to understand what correct alignment looks and feels like. You also learn how to safely move into and out of a pose – many injuries come not from the poses themselves but from the transitions!

Learn modifications – With and without the use of props, find your personal version of a pose that works for and with your body. In Triangle Pose (Trikonasana) you might use a block to bring the ground up to your bottom hand, or you might engage a microbend in your knee to prevent hyperextension. A strap wrapped around your feet in Staff Pose (Dandasana) will give you something to pull towards if you can’t reach your feet.

Nimbus developed Yoga 001, a group class series, to help true beginners learn the foundations of yoga. Each class focuses on a handful of poses. The instructor breaks them down and demonstrates them. The students then get a chance to practice, ask questions, and learn adjustments. We also offer one-on-one instruction for those who prefer individualized attention.

A group or private beginner yoga class is a great place to help you start your yoga practice. With a bit of effort and focus, you’ll leave feeling more confident about attending group classes, following a video, or practicing on your own. 


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13/Dec/2018

Swedish Massage, arguably the most recognizable style of massage in the West, serves as a basis from which many massage therapists work. A practitioner can use basic Swedish techniques for a variety of therapeutic and relaxation purposes.  However, the term has become conflated over the years with relaxation work from the way that spas have marketed massage.

Not just relaxing

Many spas today use the term Swedish Massage to mean a nice relaxing session. They then use the term Deep Tissue Massage to mean a firm pressure therapeutic massage. We find this usage somewhat inaccurate. A therapist can not only apply Swedish techniques with firm pressure but can also target deeper musculature. Depending on the pacing, pressure, and intention, it may not feel relaxing at all. Furthermore, most modern Western therapists also mix in a variety of other techniques during a “Swedish” massage. For these reasons, we shy away from using the term on our menu at Nimbus.

The essence of Swedish Massage comprises three basic techniques- gliding, kneading, and that karate-chop thing that nobody likes. Developed as part of a physical therapy regimen called the Swedish Movement Cure, it originally spread through the Western medical community as a way to reduce muscular tension and aid in rehabilitation. The therapist uses the techniques with the intention to smooth, elongate, and spread the muscle tissue. They may aim to relax or invigorate.

Swedish at Nimbus

All of the therapists at Nimbus have studied traditional Swedish techniques though, depending on your session goal and their specialties, they may or may not use them. Each of our team members can also deliver a nice relaxation massage with a blend of techniques. If you are looking for a “Swedish Massage” akin to what you might get in a spa, book a “Massage for Wellness.” The therapist will still tailor your session to your individual needs, but will have an indication of your overall goal.

And, if you really do like that karate-chop thing, let us know… we’ll add it in!


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13/Dec/2018

While our main focus is on clinical and therapeutic massage we are not afraid of a little “woo.” At least, not woo that has some medical research behind it. Search “reiki” in PubMed (a trusted online database of medical research papers) and you will find a small number of studies that form a beginning of some positive research for reiki and other therapeutic touch  as a part of biofield therapy. The gist of the data so far indicates that reiki may have a positive influence on stress and pain relief.

Origins of Reiki

Reiki originated in Japan and it is essentially a laying on of hands. The history goes as follows, Dr. Mikao Usui went to the mountain, had a vision, and came back connected to the life force energy of the universe. He was able to heal people by touching them and tapping into this energy. He passed down this ability to other practitioners through an attunement process, which is how we still do it today.

In the original form of Reiki, the practitioner would place hands on the recipient wherever the energy felt out of balance. In the modern western version, the practitioner uses hand placements on the chakras which correspond to the rest of the body to facilitate healing. One science-based theory of how reiki works focuses on the possibility of one person’s electromagnetic field influencing the other’s. However, nothing has been proven through methodological study.

Traditionally, people have sought out reiki to heal and balance mind, body, and spirit. It  follows an integrated eastern philosophy of wellness in which any of these components alone or together may disturb overall well-being and lead to health problems. Each chakra corresponds not only to a physical part of the body, but to an emotional state, and a spiritual concept as well. Here is a quick and dirty list of the major chakras.

Chakras

1st/Root Chakra– At the base of the spine. Physically relates to the lower body and immune system– sciatica, low back pain, depression. Mental and emotional correlations include safety and security, basic physical needs, family, standing up for oneself.

2nd/Sacral Chakra– At the sacrum. Physically relates to the viscera, sexual organs, and hip area– urinary problems, problems related to the sexual organs, low back or hip pain. Mental and emotional correlations include blame and guilt, creativity, control, money issues, and ethics.

3rd/Solar Plexus Chakra– Above navel. Physically relates to the stomach, abdomen, and abdominal organs– ulcers, diabetes, GERD, liver problems, and adrenal fatigue. Mental and emotional correlations include trust, self-esteem, self-care, decision making, and honor.

4th/Heart Chakra– In the center of the chest near the heart. Physically relates to the heart, lungs, shoulders/arms, and chest– heart problems, asthma, allergies, upper back and shoulder pain. Mental and emotional correlations include love, resentment, grief, anger, forgiveness, loneliness, and self-centeredness.

5th/Throat Chakra– At the throat. Physically relates to the throat, neck, mouth, and glands– sore throat, TMD, scoliosis, and thyroid problems. Mental and emotional correlations include personal choice and expression, hopes and dreams, addiction, criticism, faith, and decision making.

6th/Third Eye Chakra– In the center of the forehead. Physically relates to the brain, nervous system, eyes, ears, nose, and glands– neurological or brain problems, learning difficulties, seizures, and hearing and vision problems. Mental and emotional correlations include intellectual ability, truth, wisdom, and emotional intelligence.

7th/Crown Chakra– At the crown of the head. Physically relates to the muscles, bones, and skin– chronic exhaustion, depression, and sensitivity to light and sound. Mental and emotional correlations include big picture thinking, spirituality, selflessness, values, courage, and trusting in life.

Experiencing

It can get complex and very in depth for those who appreciate the metaphysical. There can be levels, symbols, colors, crystals, sound, and smoke. There can be connecting of the worldly and ethereal. There can be inviting of enlightened beings.

People experience reiki in a variety of different ways. Some feel heat or vibration. Some see colors or visions. Some simply feel relaxed.  Some have emotional outpourings. Many specifically seek it out for this reason- it can bring up emotional or spiritual issues for processing. And for some, there is a profound connection that feels divine. The wisdom of reiki says that whatever the person experiences is exactly what they need for healing.

Another piece of the wisdom of reiki is that it “calls” to those who should try it…


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13/Dec/2018

The cast came off and the joint wasn’t what it used to be. The skin was tight and bound down around the scar, the tissue sticking together. The scar sent burning zingers and the bone felt like fire ants. The joint didn’t want to move. The therapist could feel tight bands and knots in the muscles around the area. The fascia felt tight, not wanting to move. And the joint itself felt stiff. Time for a post-injury massage!

If you are recovering from an injury a massage for pain relief may aid your healing as part of an integrative approach to care.

Minor Injury

For minor injuries such as a pulled muscle, massage can help ease pain and relax tight muscle fibers. Sometimes as little as one session can make a huge difference, and often a short series can get everything back to normal. When seeking a therapeutic massage to ease pain and improve function following a minor injury, the general rule of thumb is to wait 72 hours after the incident, or until any redness, swelling, or heat have dissipated.

Serious Injury

For a more serious incident, the post-injury massage shouldn’t come until after seeking medical attention and being cleared by the health practitioner to receive massage. Typically, people start getting massage while they are in physical therapy or when ending physical therapy. Massage can greatly complement the work done in a PT’s office to rehab after an injury, as it targets the same structures and goals using a slightly different approach.

People use post-injury massage to address pain, scar tissue, stiffness, weakness, and diminished flexibility. It can help improve mood, ease stress, and give a sense of healing and connection to the body. Many people say that massage is that “extra something” that makes a difference in their recovery.

At Nimbus we have taken part in many people’s healing efforts. We have seen people recovering from broken bones, sprains, pulled muscles, falls, accidents, sporting injuries, workplace mishaps… the list goes on. We’d love to hear your story of how massage has made a difference in your recovery.

 


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13/Dec/2018

What is Trigger Point Therapy?

Trigger Point Therapy uses a firm sustained pressure to relieve painful knots called trigger points (TP’s). Unlike other tender knots, trigger points have four specific characteristics.

  1. TP’s are tender nodules found within a taut band of muscle.
  2. TP’s send a pain signal, called a referral, to a distant or surrounding area.
  3. When pressed, the muscle that has a trigger point twitches.
  4. The pain does not originate from apparent trauma, infection, or neurological problems.

Sometimes, when active, the TP causes constant referral pain. When latent, the referral area only feels painful when one presses on the TP.

Firm pressure treatment

To apply Trigger Point Therapy, your massage therapist locates the knot, presses on it with a firm pressure, and holds it for several seconds. They may repeat this if the initial pressure does not relieve the pain. Once the knot softens, and the pain lessens, your therapist may stretch the muscle to restore the proper length to the muscle fiber.

Your therapist may apply Trigger Point Therapy if you have a baffling muscular pain that doesn’t seem related to injury. Especially if you have tender knots and/or a feeling of weakness in the muscle. They may ask you to look at pain patterns with them to see if any look familiar prior to starting your session. Definitely if you have Myofascial Pain Syndrome, which involves multiple trigger points throughout the body.

A widely respected text in the massage industry written by a pair of doctors, maps all of the muscles in the body along with common trigger points and their referral patterns. Although therapists jokingly call the this manual “the Massage Bible,” controversy surrounds the soundness of the material. In practice however, this style of massage has helped many people find muscular pain relief.

At Nimbus Massage, your therapist may check for trigger points if you have headaches, neck pain, back pain, hip pain, TMJ Dysfunction, or pain in the extremities.  If you don’t like firm pressure, they can adjust the technique to make it more gentle. You may experience this technique during a Massage for Chronic Pain or a Massage for Aches and Pains.


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