Tips, Tricks & Tools: The Doorway Stretch

My husband has a new office. It’s tiny, but a great addition to our household life (especially for him). You access his office through the kitchen. I often stand in the doorway to talk with him. There’s no better time to do a simple doorway stretch.

Benefits of the doorway stretch: aren’t many of us hunched over a computer for more hours than is healthy? The doorway stretch opens up the chest, stretching the connective tissue and musculature. This in turns helps us breathe more easily and achieve full range of motion in the neck and shoulders. It helps remind us that our shoulder blades are supposed to be on our backs, not creeping forward around our ribcage.

Stretch often! You can stretch often; no harm in that. Try a stretch for 90 seconds. That’s a great amount of time for the nervous system to relax into a new position. If you start out on the mild side of a stretch you’ll get more out of it over the 90 seconds. If you start too aggressively, you’ll either feel pain or not be able to hold it for long.

Enjoy it! While you stretch, rotate your head to either side, take a deep breath, or contract the muscles between your shoulder blades and the spine. The doorway stretch targets the pectoralis major muscles. These muscles have different fiber directions (shaped like a fan), so varying the position of the arms during the stretch will benefit the various fibers. Try a 90° angle with the arms, then higher or lower. Lastly, try engaging your smiling muscles, especially if you’re chatting with a family member – they need to see our smiles more often anyway!

Homemade Heat Pack

Today I sat down to make a homemade heat pack. I decided to snap a few pics along the way.

Heat can soothe sore muscles, loosen ligaments before exercise, and warm you up on a cold day. Of course, no one in the country seems to need that right now!?! Crazy heat, huh? I’m making heat packs which we might use when my friend goes into labor. Heat can help relax tight muscles and ease pain.

What you’ll need:

You can make a simple heatable pack with some fabric, thread, and rice. No need for fancy, organic, free-range rice. I got this 20-lb. bag for $10. I decided to use a pillowcase we no longer needed. This saved me a little time because I could take advantage of some seams that were already sewn. But word to the wise, make sure your fabric is strong enough to hold the rice. I used an OLD, TIRED pillowcase and it tore when I filled it.

Decide what size and shape you’d like your heatable pack to be and cut that shape out. Sew it up by hand or with a machine leaving a space to fill the inside with rice. Scoop the rice in. You want it fairly full but not completely packed. (Very scientific, huh?)You’ll finish sewing the opening by hand. Voilà!

To use it, you can heat it in the microwave for 1 minute, take it out and shift the contents, heat for another 1 minute. Smaller packs should be heated less. Learn how long your pack needs to get heated through so that you don’t burn it. If you burn it, you’ll probably want to replace the rice inside.

I can verify that threading a needle gets much more difficult as one gets older.

Sewing by hand took me about an hour whereas I know machine sewing this project would have taken about 5-10 minutes tops. But if you borrow someone’s sewing machine, never ask to borrow a Bernina! (Right, Bob?)

Deep Tissue Massage

When I was new to receiving massage I wasn’t really sure what I wanted. I find this is the case for a lot of people. One time I scheduled a Deep Tissue massage. I had left a message with the therapist and she called back while I was out. When I returned my co-worker informed me that the therapist had called back to confirm my Deep Tissue massage. My co-worker said those words like they were magic, like “I don’t know what in the world a Deep Tissue massage is, but it sounds good!”

The goal of Deep Tissue Massage is to penetrate to deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. When I give a Deep Tissue massage, I use a creme instead of an oil or gel so that I’m gliding over skin less and sinking down into the tissue more. I use stretches, engage tendons at their origins and insertions, and endeavor to differentiate tissues that have become adhered to each other. More often than not I combine Deep Tissue with Swedish/circulatory massage to first loosen up the muscles I’m going to work more in depth on. I like to think strategically about how the strain in one area can be caused by tightness or weakness in another area. Because of this I sometimes work where the pain isn’t, in order to relieve pain where it’s felt. This is an excellent massage choice for working on those knots and areas of chronic tension that hinder your free range of motion.

Deep Tissue massage is by necessity slower. It takes longer to sink in deeper. I rarely do Deep Tissue on the whole body. It would take 3 hours and you’d feel as if you’d been run over by a truck. I usually do Deep Tissue on 1 or 2 regions, for example the back and legs. The rest of the body might not need that deep, penetrating specificity. Heat and ice combine well with Deep Tissue massage. I might heat an area first to loosen up the muscle and connective tissue. This allows the body to receive the depth better. I might ice an area after deep work to decrease any inflammation caused by the work itself. This can decrease soreness the client may feel later.

In Deep Tissue massage the therapist may use her hands, knuckles, forearms, elbows, and even feet to achieve the desired depth. But equally important is patience, working with the clients breath, and attention to the body’s willingness to receive the work. Author Art Riggs in his book Deep Tissue Massage (North Atlantic Books 2002) emphasizes working with not on the person’s muscle tissue. He provides this definition.

A simple definition might be: the understanding of the layers of the body, and the ability to work with tissue in these layers to relax, lengthen, and release holding patterns in the most effective and energy efficient way possible. (p. 3)

In Deep Tissue Massage there is less emphasis on pleasure as the primary goal and more emphasis on altering structure and muscle restrictions. This is not to say that the work is not pleasurable. Most clients, once they are accustomed to the benefits of deep tissue work, prefer the increase degree of relaxation, the alleviation of pain, and the longer lasting benefits. (p. 3)

If you’ve ever been intrigued with what a Deep Tissue massage would feel like, let me know. If you’ve ever felt beat up by a Deep Tissue massage, my guess is that the therapist was working too hard to fit some spa menu definition of Deep Tissue massage and wasn’t paying enough attention to your particular body’s needs. Perhaps you’d like to give it another try. Let me know; I’m here to help.

Gone fishin’ (sort of)

Hi all! I’m on vacation this week. I love vacations, don’t you? I’ll be out of town from July 3rd through July 8th. If you would like to get a massage while I’m gone I have some terrific recommendations for you! These are trusted colleagues. I receive massage from each of them and so I can personally vouch for how excellent they are. Give them a try!

Brienne Ernst (626) 590-3026

Eloise Albrecht (818) 749-3454

Clare Greene (949) 466-9748

Diana Leone (619) 347-6197

Happy 4th of July! Susan