Touch-The Mother of the Senses

Massage and Low Back Pain​

Low-back pain is one of the most common complaints of consumers, and now there’s research that suggests massage therapy may just be more effective in dealing with low-back pain than other more traditional medical interventions. “This is important because chronic back pain is among the most common reasons people see doctors and alternative practitioners, including massage therapists,” explains Dr. Daniel Cherkin, Director of Group Health Research Institute and lead author of the study. “It’s also a common cause of disability, absenteeism and ‘presenteeism,’ when people are at work but can’t perform well.”


The study comprised 401 patients aged 20 to 65 years old with non-specific chronic low-back pain and compared the effectiveness of either relaxation or structural massage versus usual care, including medication and physical therapy. Participants were asked about their abilities to perform daily activities and then randomly assigned to receive one of three treatments.


One group received full-body relaxation massage, often called Swedish massage, and another received focused deep tissue massage, where specific pain-related tissues, ligaments and joints are targeted. The third group received therapies including painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants or physical therapy. Those receiving massage were given a one-hour massage once a week for 10 weeks. The results speak for themselves.


After 10 weeks, the researchers again surveyed the participants about their symptoms and mobility, and again at six months and one year. The two groups of patients receiving massage therapy reported their back pain was significantly improved or gone altogether.“We found that patients receiving massage were twice as likely as those receiving usual care to reportsignificant improvements in both their pain and function,” explains Cherkin. “After 10 weeks, about two-thirds of those receiving massage improved substantially, versus only about one-third in the usual care group.” Although previous studies on massage therapy and low-back pain have concentrated primarily on the effectiveness of deep tissue massage, researchers are hopeful about the success of relaxation massage modalities offering significant benefits. Two reasons are that relaxation massage is oftentimes more widely available and more cost-effective.


MTJ/massage therapy journal Fall 2011

Get in Touch with Your Skin ...​

Fascinating Fascia ...

What Makes Muscles Ache?

With your body having more than 600 muscles that comprise about 40% of your body weight (closer to 30% for women), it’s no wonder you feel the effects of exertion and exercise. You can appreciate why it makes good sense to properly care for your muscles.


When muscle aches are experienced during strenuous exercise (that “burning” sensation), you’re feeling the effects of  lactic acid—the substance formed as a result of the incomplete breakdown of sugar by the muscle. When a build-up occurs, it’s best to continue your efforts at a lighter level; it will enable your body to use up the lactic acid faster than if you cease all activity.


Feeling sore and achy a day or two after your workout has a different cause. The soreness comes from your muscle fibers in the exercised area getting slightly strained or torn. If you get too active too quickly, this overexertion can exacerbate the situation.

Also, the capillaries to the area diminish from lack of use and need to redevelop in order to properly supply the muscles with the blood necessary to facilitate this new growth. The tricky part is that the new muscle fiber is capable of growing more rapidly than is the needed blood supply to the area.

The solution to either of these problems is to use moderation in all your physical activities and allow your body time to build strength and stamina gradually. A little soreness when you increase your muscle usage is to be expected, but anything greater indicates you’ve been overdoing it, so slow your pace.

A regular physical workout, when done properly, is a great asset to building your overall health. Your efforts do more than tone your muscles; all your systems benefit from your actions.

For best results, give your muscles time to repair and regenerate between sessions of strenuous physical activity. A day or two for the exercised area to “catch its breath” and prepare for the next round makes quite a difference.


Massage sessions can help your recovery time. For instance, through the light squeeze and release of muscles, circulation is improved. This increased blood flow brings nutrients like oxygen to your cells and carries toxins away for disposal. Muscle elasticity and function can be improved, as well.

If you want more information on exercise, warm-ups, stretching, or other related areas of health, please let me know at your next session. I’d be glad to share any information I have to help you.

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

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 flexible.” 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 approximately 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 forty-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 debilitating it can be.

Several things can precipitate back pain, among them tension, trauma or strain; improper sleeping positions; and sedentary lifestyles (lots of sitting, desk 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 your 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 structurally, 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 most back pain can be prevented by keeping the muscles and joints supple and mobile, greatly aided through regular massage 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 employed to release areas of chronic tension and to increase blood circulation to the area. Let’s work together to keep your back happy!


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

Do you know what fascia is? Most people have never heard of it, yet it’s literally everywhere throughout your body. And the role it plays is an important one.

What is fascia? The World Book Dictionary defines fascia as “a usually thin band of fibrous connective tissue covering, supporting, or binding together a muscle, part, or organ; tissue of this kind.” The word comes from the Latin fascia, meaning a band or girdle.

This connective tissue forms a continuous net throughout the body, from head to toe and from skin to the deepest levels. “If all the other tissues were extracted, the connective framework alone would preserve the three-dimensional human form in all its details,” writes author and bodyworker Deane Juhan in his book Job’s Body.

All of the body’s components that we are more familiar with—the blood vessels, nerves, muscles, etc.—make their way through this maze of fascia. And found in all the tiny spaces throughout the connective tissue is a fluid called ground substance, a viscous liquid resembling raw egg whites.

Ground substance is the medium in which all those cellular body functions—nutrients and hormones being delivered to cells, wastes being carried away, etc.—take place.

So, what does all this have to do with massage and your overall health? Because fascia is a continuous web spreading throughout your body, it can play a major role in how your body functions. Since it’s a gel, ground substance can change in consistency. When a body is active (through work, exercise, stretching, etc.), it generates heat that creates a more ideal condition for the ground substance—one in which it becomes thinner or more liquid. This allows for better metabolic exchange to take place throughout your body, helping your body to better maintain proper health. 

If a body is less active, the connective tissues are not as warmed or energized, allowing the ground substance to thicken; the tissues become sluggish and lose their ability to stretch, soften and flex.

One of the health benefits of massage is the positive effect it has on this process in the body. “(B)y means of pressure and stretching, and the friction they generate, the temperature and therefore the energy level of the tissue has merely been raised slightly. This added energy in turn promotes a more fluid ground substance ... in which nutrients and cellular wastes can conduct their exchanges more efficiently.” 1

The substance that gives connective tissue its strength is the protein collagen (derived from the Greek word meaning glue). The collagen molecule is the longest molecule that has ever been isolated. These collagen fibers derive their strength from their ability to form strong chemical bonds with each other. Over the years, these fibers tend to pack more tightly and strengthen their bonds, especially in places with more compression and strain. “These areas of chronic stress in the connective tissue thicken and rigidify, bunch up, lose their range of motion, and impose their limitations on the movement of the body as a whole. ... This unwanted bonding is one of the major factors in the stiffness associated with old age, repeated strain, or poorly healed injuries.” 1

Because fascia is continuous throughout your body, when one area is affected (becomes tight, for example), its effects can manifest in other areas as well. Imagine pulling on a corner of your shirt and the numerous distortions this causes across the length of the fabric. Fascia can react in a similar fashion. Areas of restricted fascia can lead to various complaints, such as postural problems and restricted movement.

So, in addition to massage benefiting your tight or sore muscles while soothing and relaxing you, it also is playing another vital health role.  “The pressure, motion, and friction created by deep manipulation raises thermal levels far beneath the surface. In addition, the squeezing, stretching, and contorting of the connective tissues creates a cleansing, flushing effect, similar to that of rinsing out a sponge... Large amounts

of toxins and wastes ... can be thus moved out of the inter cellular fluids and into the bloodstream, from which they can then be eliminated.” 1


This information only scratches the surface on fascia and the roles it plays in your body, but it should give you a better understanding of how your regular massage sessions can benefit you. If you have questions, just ask! 

1. Deane Juhan, Job’s Body, 1987

Did you know . . . that the term “myofascia” describes the tissues that together comprise muscles. (Myo = muscle) A muscle is composed of muscle fibers, each surrounded by fascia. In turn, bundles of these fibers are also wrapped in fascia, as is the muscle itself—the entire muscle completely interwoven with fascia!   


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

Since skin is the medium in which the massage therapist works to create a healthier client, it’s a fitting subject to address. What an amazing role skin plays in your health! If your primary skin concerns have been what SPF rating your sun screen has, read on and gain a new appreciation for an old friend—your skin.


What responsibilities your skin has! A partial list of your skin’s duties include:

  • Providing a waterproof barrier that protects you from invasions of foreign substances and from excessive fluid loss

  • Regulating your body temperature—using sweat glands to cool you with perspiration and blood supply to raise or lower your temperature as needed

  • Playing a supporting role in your body’s immune system

  • Excreting wastes—Sharing the functions of the lungs and kidneys, the skin expels impurities from the body via perspiration

  • Contributing to the regulation of blood pressure. The skin’s blood-vessel network, capable of storing and releasing blood as needed, is as important as the heart for proper circulation

  • Being a vital sensory organ

In the human embryo, the sense of touch is the first to develop, beginning in the sixth week. While your other senses are limited to your head (sight, hearing, taste, smell), your sense of touch is gathering information from every inch of your skin. Every minute of the day, your skin is monitoring your environment with its approximate 640,000 sensory receptors and is capable of wakening you from a deep sleep should it sense an abnormal situation. Additionally, it offers such a variety of information—your skin differentiates itchy and tickling sensations, hot and cold, various degrees of pressure, and all manner of pain and pleasure sensations.


Another of the skin’s sentry duties includes monitoring what is allowed to pass through its pores. With great selectivity your skin accepts nourishing substances while rejecting toxins, and expels metabolic waste while retaining beneficial substances—all simultaneously!


Skin is among the most adaptable tissues in the body. It can become calloused, having little feeling or remain thin and extremely sensitive.


Skin is in a constant state of renewal. A person living to the age of 70 will go through about 850 skins—each new skin reflecting the ongoing changes of aging. As the years roll by, the skin’s tissue continues to lose moisture, resulting in the thinner, drier and more wrinkled skin of the aged.


When injured, specialized cells found in the skin have the capability to begin the healing process by manufacturing strands of connective tissue that fill the wound. Your skin really knows how to take care of you.


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

Our sense of touch is something we can take for granted, yet it is intimately involved with our survival. The first sense to develop, touch actually plays a much greater role in our overall well-being than most people realize. Following are references drawn from the book Touching, The Human Significance of the Skin by educator Ashley Montagu.


The skin of an adult male is about 19 square feet and contains some 5 million sensory cells. More than a million skin cells shed every hour, and about every four hours, the skin forms two new layers of cells. The nerve fibers that carry the information on tactile sensations are generally a larger size than those associated with the other senses, suggesting the importance of these messages to proper body function.


There have been numerous studies involving a variety of animal species that indicate regular sensory stimulation through touch improves life functions. For instance, when rats were regularly handled and “gentled” (treated in a soothing way), they produced higher levels of the hormones that lessen stress. Dr. Montagu states that all of the gentled animals’ systems tend to function more efficiently and, regarding skin stimulation, “... we are quite evidently speaking of a fundamental and essential element in the healthy development of every organism.”Regarding human responses to touching, a study of ten infants (starting at ten weeks old), whose mothers were taught to stroke their infants’ backs, reported that at six months of age, these babies had fewer colds, sniffles, vomiting and diarrhea than infants in the control group, whose mothers had not been taught to stroke their infants.


These type of tactile experiences have proven to play an important role in the growth and development of all mammals that have been studied.


Dr. John D. Benjamin of the University of Colorado Medical School carried out a series of experiments in which one group of twenty lab rats, supplied with exactly the same kinds and amounts of food and living conditions, were caressed and cuddled, while the other group was treated coldly. The petted rats learned faster and grew faster.


Dr. Montagu’s conclusion of these studies is that “... the living organism depends to a very large extent upon the stimulation of the external world for its growth and development. Those stimuli must for the most part be pleasurable ones, just as they must be in learning...”


The numerous studies done on humans—especially infants—support the above statement. The physiological effect seems to be that people who are nurtured through warm human touch develop stronger immune systems, healthier overall constitutions, and are more mentally/emotionally prepared for life and its challenges.


What about as we grow older? Even though we have noticeable loss in nerve fiber and decreased acuity in the sense of touch over the years, it appears our needs for tactile stimulation may actually increase.


Unfortunately in our society, human contact is often perceived as inappropriate, more so among males than females. Imagine what a difference it would make if sincere affection could be warmly displayed between caring individuals without the concerns of misconception that have been assigned by our culture to close physical contact.


“One has only to observe the responses of older people to a caress, an embrace, a handpat or clasp, to appreciate how vitally necessary such experiences are for their well-being,” Montagu says. He goes on to suggest that “the course and outcome of many an illness in the aged has been greatly influenced by the quality of tactile support the individual has received before and during theillness.”


When you appreciate the benefits to your health and very survival brought about through regular human contact, you can have a greater appreciation for the benefits your regular massage sessions can offer you. The therapeutic nature of regular massage can provide the positive stimulus to keep those tactile connections humming from head to toe!


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


 a Pain in the Neck Becomes a Pain in the Head


Nobody likes being in pain, especially from headaches. The American Council for Headache Education reports that, during the past year, nearly 90 percent of men and 95 percent of women have had at least one headache. Here is an article by Kelly James-Enger, a free-lance journalist specializing in health, fitness and nutrition topics, covering some useful information on headaches.


“It turns out your mom was right when she told you not to slouch... [T]here’s a connection between poor posture and headache frequency. ‘If someone has chronic headache pain, [we find] he or she often sits in a slouched, head-forward position,’ explains Dr. Merle Diamond, associate director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago. ‘That aggravates the muscles of the head and neck and can lead to more muscle spasms and more pain.’ Doctors call these cervicogenic headaches, and they can cause something called ‘referred pain.’ While the problem may originate in your neck, it’s the back of your head that aches.


“There are definite associations between neck or cervical spine triggers and both migraine and tension-type headaches, says Dr. Robert Kanieki, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the Headache Center there. Tension-type headaches are often due to muscle irritation in the neck; the resulting headache is often felt around the area where the muscles insert at the base of the skull, says Kanieki. ‘The head is essentially a 10-pound structure,’ he says. ‘If it’s not balanced on the top of your neck and shoulders, it can certainly aggravate the cervical spine and trigger muscle tension, and muscle tightness. This can lead to spasms or the development of headaches.’


“However, doctors now believe that there’s also a connection between neck pain and migraines. ‘Recently we learned that migraine, as opposed to arising from blood vessel or vascular problems, appears to arise from neurological origins,’ says Kaniecki. ‘And the structure that processes pain in the head that’s inside the brain—the relay center for pain— also relays pain signals from the upper neck.’ That’s why doctors believe that irritation in the neck and upper shoulder area—the cervical region—can trigger migraines too.


Sit up straight, feel better

“If you already have neck problems, you may be one of the unlucky people predisposed to these headaches. One study found that people with joint or muscular abnormalities in their heads and necks were more likely to suffer from both tension and migraine headaches. However, if you tend to get headaches at the end of the day, poor posture may be the culprit.


“Improving your posture and strengthening your neck and shoulder muscles can make a big difference—in clinical trials, people who did posture and strengthening exercises reduced their headache frequency. ‘One of the things we tell our patients with chronic daily headaches is to work on their posture,’ says Diamond. ‘They should do a check-in and make sure that they’re sitting upright because it’s clear that a lot of these people

slouch a lot.’


“At the Headache Center at the University of Pittsburgh, patients learn natural means of improving headache, including regulating their sleep and meal patterns and performing a daily 30-minute walk. Kanieki suggests that headache sufferers keep the phrase, ‘walk tall, sit straight, stretch out’ in mind. During your daily walk, focus on maintaining good posture—imagine that there’s a string at the top of your head and keep your head balanced over your shoulders, back straight, as

you stroll.


“At work, make sure that you’re sitting straight, not hunched over, and take regular breaks away from your computer. Finally, implement a regular stretching routine into your day. Even a simple series of neck stretches (tilting your head to the left, then right, forward and back, for example) helps. You’ll reduce your chances of leaving work with stiff shoulders and an achy, pounding head—and your mom will compliment you on your new and improved posture as well.”


Remember that massage has been shown effective in relaxing tense muscles that may be contributing to posture problems and headaches!







What is Therapeutic Sports Massage?

Therapeutic sports massage is a type of massage technique that focuses on treating soft tissue aches, pain and injuries that are associated with recreational activities. Massage can reduce muscle stiffness and improve relaxation by reducing heart rate and blood pressure.


While many athletes are convinced of the physical benefit of massage, research on its effectiveness is accumulating. Massage involves applying mechanical pressure to the soft tissues, and this is has been linked with improved muscle flexibility, increased range of motion in the joints, and decreased muscle stiffness.


Recently, researchers at McMaster University reported that deep massage after an intense workout actually causes muscles to enlarge and grow new mitochondria. Mitochondira, the powerhouses of our cells, are responsible for converting nutrients into useful energy.


For this study, the researchers had men to exercise to exhaustion on stationary bicycles. After the workout, the men had a Swedish-style deep-tissue massage on one leg for 10 minutes. Muscle biopsies were taken from one quadriceps muscle before and after the workout, and from both muscles immediately after a 10 minute massage of one leg, and again two and a half hours later. The deep-tissue massage increased the size and number of new mitochondria more than exercising without massage. Increasing mitochondria can improve endurance performance by increasing the rate that muscles can utilize oxygen.


The pressure of massage may also improve blood flow during the massage and increase muscle temperature. Massage reduces heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels. Most people report a feeling of pure relaxation, reduced anxiety, and improved mood as a result. Athletes may indeed find an edge in these psychological benefits.


For most athletes, enjoying less muscle stiffness and improving relaxation and well-being is reason enough to enjoy regular massage. But as research continues to grow on the real physical benefits of massage, more and more athletes will be taking advantage of this 'feel-good' training method.

Water Works


There are many reasons for keeping yourself hydrated.  Read the article below and find out why it is so important.


Besides decreasing headaches, heartburn, constipation, fatigue and kidney stones, getting your fair share of water each day may help prevent serious illnesses including heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and asthma.


One study at the University of Loma Linda, California, showed that people who drink five or more glasses of water every day cut their risk of suffering a fatal heart attack in half. Researchers believe because water, unlike other beverages, is absorbed immediately into the blood stream, it thins the blood and reduces clot risk.


This also helps moderate blood pressure because it’s easier for the heart to pump thinner rather than thicker blood. Furthermore, researchers at Harvard reported men who drank six cups of water daily reduced bladder cancer risk by 50 percent. Other studies indicate that high water intake also curbs the risk of breast and colon cancers. And even asthma sufferers have reason to gulp it down.


A University of Buffalo study revealed dehydration reduces lung function and triggers bronchial spasms, especially while exercising.”

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