Massage Benefits: Get in touch with its many benefits

Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments with the hands. There are many different types of massage, which can range from light stroking or kneading to deep pressure. Regardless of technique, regular massage can improve your quality of life.

Massage Benefits - Health Solutions Kent

Release Stress

Stress is universal, and it’s not always bad. When you lunge to catch a falling glass, feel especially energetic before an important meeting, or swerve in time to avoid a car accident, stress is doing its job. The adrenaline and cortisol released during moments of stress boosts your heart rate and blood sugar, while diverting energy away from your digestive system and immune responses. These prehistoric reactions are part of human survival.

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Don’t Run into Trouble: Running Injuries by Numbers

Do you dream of being that runner where every step of every mile is 100% pain free? No aches, no twinges or niggles, no lingering soreness from yesterday’s session. Well, you are not alone; research shows that as many as 79% of runners get injured at least once during the year. Stop. Think about that number for a moment; nearly 8 out of every 10 runners you see at your next race have been or will be injured sometime that year.

Think of running pains in terms of a spectrum. At one end you have severe, full-blown injuries, we’ll name that the red zone, which includes stress fractures that require time off. The other end, where you’re in top form, is the green zone. Mild, transient aches that bug you one day and disappear the next sit closer to the green end. Unfortunately, many runners get stuck in the middle, in the not-quite-injured but not-quite-healthy yellow zone. Your ability to stay in the green zone depends largely on how you react to that first stab of pain.

Don’t Overwork Yourself

Often a little rest now, or reduction in training mileage and intensity, with some treatment, can prevent a lot of time off later. Developing a proactive long-term injury-prevention strategy, such as strength training, stretching, regular massage and foam-rolling can help keep you in the ‘green.’ Physical therapy is a lot like homework, not all of us like having to do it, but if you don’t do it, you’re sure to get in trouble at some stage!

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Sacroiliac Joint Pain

Sacroiliac joint pain is a very common cause of low back pain, and sometimes also leg pain and is often misdiagnosed as a problem with the discs in the spine, or the spine itself. Sacroiliac joint (SIJ) pain can affect one or both sides of your lower back and the pain can travel from the sacroiliac joint into the buttocks, hips and even the groin area. The pain may also have a dramatic impact on your daily activities as well as your ability to work and exercise.

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To Shod or Not to Shod: Are We Asking the Right Question?

There is a lot of confusion about the benefits and risks of barefoot running. By discussing the most prominent running injuries and their associated risk factors, this article allows you to understand why they occur, as well as how barefoot running may alter load to the tissues most commonly affected. The article will show you how to identify the patients who will be most likely to benefit from barefoot running, which can be used to initiate gait retraining.
Practical recommendations for transitioning to barefoot running are provided, which will help you to create a safe barefoot running training programme for your clients.

DOES BAREFOOT RUNNING PREVENT INJURY? WHY HASN’T IT TAKEN OFF?

 

These are some of the questions I get asked on a regular basis by researchers, clinicians and coaches. The questions themselves perhaps highlight the error in our thinking – or lack thereof – when we attempt to follow an evidence-based model.

Follow the right individuals on social media and it is not uncommon to find clinicians waving research articles at one another in the midst of a heated exchange. One paper says it works, the other says it doesn’t. What is the clinician to do? I try to use a concept-based logic rather than seek out a definitive answer.

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Low Back Pain and Sleep

Your spine is essentially the chain that forms the ‘backbone’ of your entire body. Without it you would be a blob of muscles, organs and soft tissue piled on the floor.

Your spine commands respect because it is the pillar that supports your body, allows you to walk, stand and sit, as well as touch and feel; because it forms the canal connecting the nerves from your body and limbs, to your brain. While your heart may be the vital organ that keeps you alive, without your spine you wouldn’t be able to move.

There are three natural curves in your spine that give it an “S” shape when viewed from the side. These curves help the spine withstand great amounts of stress by distributing your body weight. Between the bony vertebra are spongy discs that act as shock absorbers. The lumbar spine (or lower back) connects the thoracic spine to the pelvis, and bears the bulk of your body’s weight.

Your spine is not rigid though. It allows movement through the intervertebral joints connecting the bony vertebra. These joints allow you to twist, to bend forward and backward, and from side to side. Large groups of muscles surrounding the spine, pelvis, hips and upper body all interact to allow for movements like walking, running, jumping, and swimming.

However, there are also muscles deep in your body that work constantly just to maintain your posture when you’re sitting and standing. It is essential that all elements of the spinal ‘chain’ work harmoniously together to ensure fluid movement without overloading structures resulting in injury and pain.

Any link in the chain that becomes ‘stuck’ will not only affect that spinal level but also the movement and strength of the chain above and below it. If the muscles around the spine are uneven in strength and length (flexibility) this too can affect the ‘chain’, altering the alignment and motion of the links.

Taking care of your spine now will help you lower the chances of experiencing back pain later. Many of the steps you can take to improve the overall health of your spine involve nothing more than practicing better body mechanics, or how you move and hold yourself, when you do daily tasks and activities.

Taking Care of Your Spine

Pay attention to early warning signs or pain. Although back pain is very common and nearly every person will experience at least one episode of back pain in a lifetime, it is essential to address any symptoms promptly.

It has also been shown in studies that early treatment and rehabilitation can prevent recurrent bouts of back pain and prevent the development of chronic lower back pain which can be very debilitating, stressful and depressing. It can affect your ability to work, play sport, socialise and sleep, all of which can further compound your pain cycle.

Your back pain could be due to inflamed ligaments, damaged intervertebral discs, nerve irritation, bony formations on the spine, muscle imbalances such as weakness or a lack of flexibility, leg length differences, or muscle strains, to name just a few. Even the way we move (or don’t move) at work, school or sport can all be an underlying cause to the current pain.

How Massage Can Help with Back Pain

A massage therapist can treat both the pain and stiffness experienced from back pain.

Massage can promote healing through increased blood circulation to the area, bringing with it oxygen and nutrients essential for tissue repair. This increased circulation also helps to reduce inflammation.

Targeted massage can release tight shortened muscles and improve flexibility and muscle balance.

The increase in endorphin levels is one of the biggest benefits of massage. This can help relieve anxiety and depression associated with lower back pain and improve sleep, which in turn will reduce the stress of managing lower back pain.

Should you need referral to another professional your massage therapist will also be able to help with this, for example, a dietician to counsel on a meal plan to achieve a healthy body weight.

Being active can help prevent back pain and losing weight can often go a long way to relieving pain.

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Back Pain and Sleep Issues

One of the most common issues back pain sufferers experience is sleep disruption so we have put together an interactive Back Pain and Sleep Guide to help you banish those sleepless nights and wake up feeling refreshed.

The guide includes:

  • 6 Strategies for Improving Your Sleep
  • 8 bedtime stretches to relieve back pain (with video links)
  • Sleeping positions that will help relieve pain (with links to videos)
  • 7 Yoga Poses that will help cure most back pain issues
  • A morning stretch routine that will help ease pain from a restless night (with videos)

Click here to download our sleep strategies for back pain document

8 Most Common Cycling Injuries & How To Avoid Them

 ILIOTIBIAL BAND (ITB) PAIN

Unless you fall off, cycling is a sport blessed by its body friendliness! In fact, riding big miles is more likely to get you fit than fractured. But, like any endurance sport, cycling can produce a catalogue of niggling aches and pains, which if left untreated can become more serious. To give your pain a name and point you down the right road to recovery, we’ve listed the 8 most common cycling ailments, their most likely causes, and how to go about fixing them.

Knee Pain

Knee Pain

One of the most common cyclist knee complaints is pain in the kneecap. This is most likely to be patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). PFPS is often worse when walking up and down hills/stairs or sitting for long periods of time. It may include wasting of the quadriceps (thigh) muscles if the injury is an old one, and tight muscles around the knee joint.

PFPS occurs when the patella (kneecap) rubs on the femur (thigh) bone underneath. It is believed that incorrect tracking (gliding) of the patella over the femur is a signifi cant factor and results in damage to the cartilage underneath the patella. The cause may be from external factors like an increase in training, the seat being too low or riding too long in big gears. Internal factors such as poor patella tracking may result from excessive pronation (fl at foot), rotation of the lower leg and tight or weak muscles around the thigh and pelvis.

Back Pain

Back Pain

After knees, the back is probably one of the biggest causes of pain for cyclists, with lack of flexibility and bad posture generally the cause. Hunching forward on your bike, and probably also at work, places strain on your spine, loading structures for prolonged periods of time.

Cyclists’ back pain is often due to mechanical factors. Have your bike properly fitted to your body, then look at your body. Lack of flexibility, such as excessive hamstring and hip flexor tightness can contribute to low back pain. Differences in leg length are common mechanical problems leading to imbalances in the spine. Core strength is very important to avoid low back pain. Core strength comes from a collection of deep muscles both big and small that work together to give you core lumbar and pelvic stability.

Neck Pain

Neck Pain

Neck pain from cycling usually stems from poor posture and weak muscles. Pain caused by neck hyper extension is made worse by positional issues on the bike, combined with lack of flexibility. Just as you have core stabilisers around your lower back, you have stabiliser muscles called deep neck flexors around your neck to hold your head up.

When your neck stabilisers are weak or fatigue quickly it is left to the trapezius muscle (that goes from the base of your skull to the tip of the shoulder) to support your head as you lean forward. And when these ‘stand-in’ muscles fatigue you can aren’t pushed all the way forward towards the toe will help to even out what muscles you’re using to pedal

 Iliotibial Band (ITB) Pain

ITB Pain

While it is more commonly known as “runner’s knee”, ITB syndrome is another common cycling injury. ITB pain is typically associated with prolonged, repetitive activity. Symptoms include pain on the outside of the knee, tenderness and sometimes swelling. In some cases, pain is felt simply walking or going up and down stairs. You may feel stiff or tight after periods of inactivity.

The ITB is a tendinous fascial band that originates on the iliac crest (hipbone) and attaches to the outside of the knee. As your knee bends and straightens repeatedly, the band can become inflamed by rubbing over bony condyles. Other contributing factors may include tightness of thigh, hip and buttock muscles as well as weak pelvic stabilising muscles.

Achilles Tendon Pain

Achilles Pain

The Achilles tendon is the tendon at the back of the ankle, connecting the gastrocnemius (calf) muscle to the heel. If your Achilles is sore during or after riding you may have Achilles tendinopathy.

Inflammation, micro-tears or compromised blood flow, often caused by overuse, could put a stop to your riding season. There is a whole host of stretching and strengthening options available from your therapist.

Hip Pain

Hip Pain

Possible causes of hip pain in cyclists include bursitis, snapping hip syndrome, impingement syndrome, labral tears or piriformis syndrome. Although the diagnoses may vary, the causes of cycling hip injuries are usually similar and involve over-training, pushing excessively high gears and muscle imbalances. For example, piriformis syndrome is caused by overuse of the gluteal (buttock) muscles, which results in a weak, tight piriformis muscle that can cause sciatica.

Hand Pain

Hand Pain

‘Handlebar Palsy’ is a name given to a condition suffered by cyclists caused by compression of the ulnar nerve at the wrist against the handlebar. It often comes on after long rides, and is not just due to the pressure from your weight but also the transmission of road ‘buzz’ and vibration through the bars.

Symptoms include numbness, tingling and weakness over the outside of the hand, little finger and outer half of the ring finger. A feeling of clumsiness in the hand is often reported and pain may be present when moving the wrist.

Burning Feet

Burning Foot

Painful burning of the ball of the foot (a.k.a. “hot foot” or metatarsalgia) is usually a result of hot weather and/or poorly fitting shoes on long, hilly rides. Pressure can pinch nerves in one or both feet.

FREE Download

If you would like to find out more information about cycling injuries, signs & symptoms, common causes and tips then please feel free to download our cheat sheet.

Tennis Elbow Prevention and Treatment

What Is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is a condition in which the outer part of the elbow becomes sore and tender at the lateral epicondyle. The forearm muscles and tendons become damaged from repetitive overuse. This leads to pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow.

Tennis Elbow Prevention and Treatment

Who Is Affected?

You don’t have to be a tennis player to suffer from tennis elbow. It is caused by the repetitive movements and the gripping actions common in tennis hence the term ‘tennis’ elbow. However, it may also occur in other activities requiring repetitive gripping actions. Tennis elbow can therefore stem from daily activities such as using scissors, cutting meat, carrying grocery bags, gardening, manual work that involves repetitive turning or lifting of the wrist, such as plumbing, or bricklaying, and typing.

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7 Secrets to Preventing Hamstring Strains

Are you or have you been ‘HamStrung’?

‘Hamstrung’ – a figurative verbal expression from the noun hamstring (the muscle and tendon on the back of the thigh), originating in the 1500’s where soldiers would slay their enemy across the back of their thighs rendering them disabled, crippled, lame, or useless. If you have ever strained or torn a hamstring muscle (albeit in a less violent manner!), you probably felt the same.

Hamstring strains are the most significant injury in football/soccer, rugby, running (more commonly sprinting), basketball, and baseball. Apart from being debilitating at the time of injury, hamstring strains can be frustratingly slow to heal. Often taking an average of 3-4 weeks to recover, even up to 6 months to return to full sporting ability. What’s worse, is that there is a 20 to 50% chance that you will re-injure your hamstring in the same season!

The hamstring is a powerful group of muscles that arise in the hip and pelvis and insert as a strong tendon at the back, just below the knee joint. It is a two-joint muscle in that it works over two joints, both bending the knee and extending the hip. Most commonly injuries to the hamstring happen with sudden changes in running direction, sudden acceleration, explosive speed, or when trying to contract the muscle whilst it is being stretched, for example a soccer player with an outstretched leg, attempting a high kick all at the same time.

 

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Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: A Practical Treatment Approach

What is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?

Patellar tendon pain, commonly also referred to a patellar tendinopathy, patellar tendonosis or patellar tendonitis occurs because your patellar tendon becomes overstressed. The different suffixes actually describe different states of the tendon. The suffix “osis” refers to long-term degeneration of the tendon usually without inflammation, ‘itis’ refers to a more acute inflammation stage and ‘opothy’ refers to general degeneration of a tendon.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Background

Patellofemoral pain (PFP) accounts for up to 17% of knee pain seen generally, and up to 40% of knee problems seen in the sporting population (1), with up to 7% of adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 years suffering with the condition (2). The condition is more common in young adolescents, especially those active in sport, and is also seen in military recruits. In addition to active individuals, inactive adolescents who are subjected to a sudden increase in walking and/or stair climbing may also suffer.

In both groups the condition represents an inability of tissue to adapt to increased loading. PFP is variously described as anterior knee pain, chondromalacia patellae, patella malalignment syndrome and patellofemoral pain syndrome. The condition typically presents as a dull ache over the anterior aspect of the knee, worse following prolonged sitting and when descending stairs. Although more common in youth, the condition can occur at any age and is typically associated with patellofemoral osteoarthritis (OA) in seniors.

Structure And Function Of The Patellofemoral Joint

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

The patella is the largest sesamoid bone (bone lying within a tendon) in the body, attached above to the quadriceps tendon and below to the patellar tendon. Medially and laterally the patellar retinacula (fibrous tissue to the side of the patella) offer support. The breadth of the pelvis and close proximity of the knee creates an outward (valgus) angle of the tibia compared to the femur. Coupled with this, the direction of pull of the quadriceps is along the shaft of the femur and that of the patellar tendon is almost vertical. The difference between the two lines of pull is known as the Q angle and is often considered an important determinant of knee health. Normal values for the Q angle are in the region of 15–20°.

In full extension, the patella does not contact the femur, but lies in a slightly outward (lateral) position. As knee flexion progresses, the patella should move inwards (medially). If it moves laterally it will butt against the prominent lateral femoral condyle and the lateral edge of the patellar groove of the femur.

Throughout flexion, different areas of the patellar undersurface are compressed onto the femur below. At 20° flexion, the inferior pole of the patella is compressed, and by 45° the middle section is affected. At 90° flexion, compression has moved to the superior aspect of the knee. In a full squatting position, with the knee reaching 135° flexion, only the medial and lateral areas of the patella are compressed.

How Does Patellar Tendonitis Happen?

The patellar tendon runs from the bottom border of the kneecap (patella bone) and attaches to the shin bone (tibia). It acts as an extension of the thigh muscles and works to straighten the knee by transferring forces from the thigh muscles (quadriceps).
The tendon works hard during activities like jumping, landing, and squatting and is therefore common in athletes who sports like basketball, volleyball, netball, or participate in ballet or running. But you don’t have to be an athlete to have patellar tendon pain, simple daily chores of climbing stairs, repetitive kneeling down at home or at work could also cause patellar tendinopathy.

Do You Suffer With This?

Do you suffer from sharp pain on, or just below, the knee cap during physical activity, occasionally followed by a dull ache for some time after the activity? Do you feel stiffness in the knee, like a tight band is restricting movement, especially when bending the knee? And you can’t really remember a specific incident that trigged the pain, but instead the pain has been developing slowly over the past few weeks?
If so, the chances are you probably have patellar tendon pain, commonly also called patellar tendinopathy, patellar tendonosis or patellar tendonitis.It occurs because your patellar tendon becomes over-stressed. This occurs frequently in athletes involved in ‘jumping’ sports (hence why it is often nicknamed Jumper’s Knee).

What Can Be Done About My Knee Pain?

Patellar tendon pain can be very restricting and frustrating as the pain can linger for weeks. It’s possible that you won’t need complete rest and may not have to stop exercise all together. With a little self-discipline and help from a physical therapist your patellar tendon pain could be resolved in a matter of weeks. Initial treatments may focus on pain relief.
Massage therapy to the tendon and surrounding thigh muscles can promote the repair process and decrease pain. Manual therapy can be performed to stretch tight TIME-SAVING RESOURCES FOR PHYSICAL AND MANUAL THERAPISTS muscles surrounding the knee and relieve stiffness in the joint. Taping or strapping can relieve pain in the short term, your therapist can apply this or teach you how to do it. Knee braces can also be helpful in pain relief.

Rehabilitation

Treatments will then focus on rehabilitation. This is the important part where you can take control of your recovery. The entire lower limb, from your pelvis to your foot needs to work together with the knee to withstand the forces of daily activities and exercise.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
So, strengthening weak calf, thigh and/or buttock muscles will help reduce the burden on the patellar tendon. Your therapist will give you daily exercises to do that will progress in difficulty as your symptoms improve.
Making sure your leg is well aligned will also ensure each muscle and joint is working together harmoniously. This may require stretching exercises to lengthen tight muscles. Your physical therapist may refer you to a podiatrist for foot orthotics which will give your leg better support and alignment.

Marathon Madness – Facts, Questions and Tips

Marathon Madness

Over the last few decades the popularity of running as a recreational activity has grown exponentially with the introduction of the big city marathons and increased awareness of the health benefits associated with physical activity. Unfortunately with the increase in participation has come an increase in running-related injuries. Studies have shown that the yearly incidence of running injuries is between 37-56%. Between 70-80% of running injuries occur from the knee downwards, the knee itself being the most common site with an incidence rate of between 25 to 42%.

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