Stick ’em up!

We finally got a digital camera…I know, I know…creeping into the current century. But, now I can more easily add little pics with my posts. So here, ladies and gentlemen, is my husband striking a pose I like to call “Stick ’em up!”

My chiropractor, Rion Zimmerman, encouraged me to stick ’em up after every massage I give. 2 minutes in stick ’em up, helps remind your body where your plumbline is. Imagine a plumbline hanging through the center of your body. Most of us carry our heads forward of this centerline and something has to compensate. Tight muscles in the back of the neck and all the way down the spine come to mind.

In stick ’em up put your heels, seat, shoulder blades and head against the wall. Raise your arms just above 90° and take some nice, slow breaths. Stick ’em up is great for breaks from the computer, after cleaning the house, or following a Saturday morning Lego play fest.

Thank you Steve. You can now hand over your wallet.

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Massage for cyclists

Last night I had fun giving a couple a massage lesson. This couple enjoys cycling and wanted some home-care strategies to manage the toll cycling takes on the body, especially the legs.

Massage has a lot to offer cyclists. Here are some highlights:

  • Flushing the quads & hamstrings. A variety of long, deep, & rapid strokes on both quads (front of leg) and hamstrings (back of legs) push a lot of blood through these muscles which have been working hard pumping and pulling on those pedals. Fresh blood brings oxygen and carries away the metabolic waste products of exercise.
  • Stretching the IT band. You’ll find your iliotibial (IT) bands on the outside of each leg. They connect the knee and hip. The IT band is a long tendon and when it gets overly tight, as it can with cycling and running, it can pull on either the knee or hip and produce pain. Long, firm strokes to stretch the IT band help keep pain at bay and the IT band healthy.
  • Foot and calf care. Detailed work on the bottom surface of the foot relieves pain from the repetitive nature of cycling. Loosening the plantar fascia helps keep the whole back line of the body from tightening up (from foot to calf to hamstring to low back!). Calves need some extra TLC to flush out their metabolic waste products and massage offers a perfect venue.
  • Neck care. Ooh, that racing position is hard on the neck! It’s especially taxing on the splenius capitis. You don’t need to know the fancy Latin names of the neck muscles to know that they hurt! Maybe if cycling was the only thing we did that strained the neck, we’d be fine. But most of us also work on computers, drive, etc. and our necks need some attention to stay healthy.

If you’d ever like to have a massage lesson and learn some of these massage techniques for home-care, please let me know. It’s fun for me to show people something new and useful for keeping them healthy for the activities they enjoy. A massage lesson can be tailored to a trio, pair or individual.

Is there a sport or actvity that you’d like me to address as to how massage can provide specific benefit? Let me know in the comments and I”ll tackle it in an upcoming post.

Let me introduce you…

to Marcia Faucett! Today I’d like to rave about the tremendously wonderful facial I received from Marcia. She and I both work in La Cañada at Tranquility Skin Care & Spa. I’ve received facials from a lot of different people over the last few years and I have to say I really enjoy Marcia’s combination of clinical attention and pampering.

On the clinical side she evaluates what I need and picks from her skills & product line to best accomplish our goals. In today’s facial she included cleansing, exfoliating, and extracting dirt from clogged pores. She also included a glycolic peel and mask. She finished with a toner and moisturizer (oh my!). On the pampering side she creates a really nice environment in which to relax, unwind, and receive. She does an excellent neck and shoulder massage (I should know!). She also includes a very lovely and effective hand and arm massage while she uses steam on the face. The hot towel at the end on my upper back was a delightful surprise.

We talked a fair amount about facial massage. I’ve often reflected on how ironic it is that our faces are the most public part of our bodies and yet are a very private place in terms of touch. We don’t go around touching each other’s faces. Touching someone’s face involves a level of intimacy between the two people. Of course, receiving a facial is an exception. But when I see people for massage I rarely include the face unless my client specifically requests it. There are many reasons for this: many people prioritize other muscles over facial muscles for their massage time, many people are going somewhere after and don’t want their hair or make-up messed up, or facial massage feels better with some kind of lubricant like oil and not many people apply oil to their faces on purpose.

I was re-thinking all of that today while Marcia gave me an amazing facial massage with my treatment. It felt so wonderful! She reminded me that the benefits of massage elsewhere on the body apply to the face as well:

  • bringing fresh blood supply to the skin and facial muscles
  • flushing waste products away through the lymph system
  • clearing sinuses through the use of gentle pressure
  • relieving headaches & relaxing the jaw

Marcia uses this silky smooth treatment creme that nourishes and hydrates the skin while she massages. Can you tell I’m a fan?

I highly recommend Marcia for any facial needs you have. She also does microdermabrasion, waxing, and lash & brow tinting. We can even coordinate a facial and massage for an extra decadent treat. Marcia can be reached at 626) 862-1860. She works by appointment Tuesday – Saturday. Lastly, because she’s so nice, she’s offering complimentary eyebrow shaping to my blog readers through the end of March. Thanks Marcia!

the end of the line: suboccipitals

In my last post I confessed that I have some tight muscles trying to get my attention. One of these groups of muscles is called the suboccipitals. As I’ve massaged hundreds of people’s suboccipital muscles, I’ve nicknamed them the end of the line. If all other muscles get tired and fatigued, these little workhorses will keep your head up.

They are tiny, but mighty. The 8 individual muscles form a triangle of sorts at the base of the skull (4 on each side).

Muscle Mapquest: take your hands and place them behind your head at the base (where head meets neck). Deep under layers of skin and muscle, your suboccipitals are hard at work. They connect the base of the head (the occiput bone) to the first & second vertebrae, and the first vertebra to the second vertebra. If you are lying down, it’s easier to sink your fingers in deep enough to feel them. If you’re sitting or standing, it’s hard to penetrate the more superficial muscles to feel these muscles distinctly because all the muscles are engaged and active.

Little muscles, big names: What they lack in size, they make up for in their super long names: rectus capitis posterior major (extends & rotates head), rectus capitis posterior minor (extends head), obliquus capitis inferior (rotates first vertebra), oliquus capitis superior (extends & bends head laterally).

Why they hurt: One can argue that the muscles that extend the head (this means to tip the head back), also must eccentrically contract to hold the head in place when we are bending forward or flexing the head. I would argue that this is why they get fatigued, sore and cranky! Our heads are heavy and often forward of where they should be. Because the suboccipitals are postural muscles they tend to become hypertonic (super tight) when they are overused or fatigued (Orthopedic Massage, Lowe 2009 p. 222). “Suboccipital trigger points cause pain that feels like it’s inside the head, extending from the back of the head to the eye and forehead.” (The Trigger Point Therapy Handbook, Davies 2004 p. 62)

Massage care and self-care: If you’re due for a massage and you think these are tight, ask your therapist (hopefully that’s me!) to devote some extra time to these workhorses. Here are some tips to self-massage them. Lie down on your back without a pillow. If you can heat the muscles first with some kind of heating pad, that will enhance your efforts. After heating them for about 5 minutes, scoop your hands under your head. You can press into the muscle bundle right at the base of the skull. You can tilt the head so that pressure is applied to one side for 30 seconds and then the other side for 30 seconds. Take a break and simply rest your head on the bed or floor. If you need a small support under your neck, use a rolled up hand towel. Resume massaging by gliding fingers from the base of the skull towards the neck. Glide up and down with a satisfying amount of pressure applied. You can push your fingers into the muscles from both left and right sides toward the vertebrae in the center. Rest. Tuck your chin, rotate your head side to side. Finish with more heat or try a few minutes resting on a flexible ice pack. Ice can be very soothing to muscles. These are great muscles, so let’s take good care of them! Let me know if you have any questions. 626-660-6856