What if a light on our foreheads flashed MAINT REQD when our bodies needed to get our attention?

We have a new car that has a helpful little light that goes on when Maintenance is Required. I believe it’s time for an oil change and a new air filter. The older car this one replaced could have always had a MAINT REQD light on. I was reflecting the other day how we never go to the mechanic any more. I don’t exactly miss him, although he was a very nice man. I’m sure he’s doing fine without us.

Seeing the MAINT REQD light made me think about the human body, my body, and the bodies I regularly work on doing massage. For a long time I’ve said that many of us walk around in our bodies the way we drive around in our cars: without a clue how they work and only paying attention when something “breaks.” Of course others of us are very body-aware and really cultivate health by carefully choosing what we eat, how we move and exercise, prioritizing sleep and rest, and including joyful activities along with all the responsibilities that characterize our lives. However, there are times when we take our bodies for granted and get a bit miffed when “something breaks” or we finally admit we carry a lot of pain around each day in our necks, shoulders, hips or feet.

MAINT: What is your Maintenance Required? For me, maintenance includes good food, laughter, chiropractic, massage, and sleep to name a few. I am really struggling these days with regular exercise, although I’ve been loving Walkahikes! What good care do you take of your precious resource of a body? Do tell in the comments below. Thanks!


Sneaky little baby!

I had the fun opportunity to babysit a 4-month-old baby over the weekend. He was a cutie, but also a sneaky little baby! Can you believe I strained an arm muscle holding this sneaky little baby?! I couldn’t believe it.

The irony of little babies is that although they are very light, relative to what they’ll weigh later, they don’t carry their own weight at all. They are floppy, floppy. Older babies will kind of wrap themselves around you and hold on (if they want to be held). But not infants.

From working out you know that any time you use a muscle that you haven’t been using much or use a muscle in a new way, you can strain it. It’s nothing serious, but can be annoying. Most over-do-it strains will resolve in about a day or so. You can help a sore muscle by 

  • massaging it,
  • stretching it,
  • resting it, and
  • moving it.
  • You can use a little arnica creme if you have it on hand.
  • You can also use a heat pad or ice pack if you want.

New parents are likely to encounter some muscle strains as they carry around their cute, sneaky little babies. For new moms, the physical demands of caring for an infant are significantly different than the physical demands of pregnancy. The carrying and lifting are like a new upper body workout. And all of this happens in the context of weakened abdominals.

So beware those sneaky little babies! Don’t be discouraged about minor strains, but treat yourself well. Ask one of the many people who wants to come and see the baby to

  • carry the baby for you
  • give you a little massage
  • bring you some arnica creme & a hot pack

Go ahead and put them to work. They will be glad to do it!

R.E.S.T. for the holidays

I have a wise friend. What a blessing! Her name is Kelly Duggan Shearer. She kindly allowed me to share these suggestions with you about keeping the holidays happy. She encourages us to R.E.S.T. to stay sane the holiday season.

R: Reduce stress. Set a budget for time, social obligations and gifts. Prioritize tasks and activities. Practice relaxation techniques. (I think this might include massage, don’t you?!)

E: Embrace yourself. Exercise daily. Get plenty of rest. Eat and drink in moderation.

S: Set realistic expectations. Remember, the holiday season is not a cure for feelings or loneliness, anger or sadness. Also, do not expect yourself to attend every event to which you are invited, or to enjoy each activity equally.

T: Take time to reinvent your holiday. Create new traditions and memories. Surround yourself with caring, supportive people. Honor the memory of those who are no longer with you.

Kelly is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC 45250) with a private practice in Glendora, CA. She specializes in helping women in their 30’s and 40’s to reclaim freedom in their hearts and joy in their relationships. Who can’t use a little more joy? Reach her at 626-841-9165 and here. Thanks Kelly!

little known “muscle” series: IT band

This is a guest post from my cherished Hailey Paton, Physical Therapist Extraordinaire! (Her business card really says that! True story.)

I know you have heard people say, “maybe your IT Band is tight.” You nod your head in agreement and wonder what the heck he/she is talking about. You wonder if there truly is a band in your leg? Is it a muscle, tendon or ligament? What does “IT” mean anyway?  Well, let me set the facts straight!

The Iliotibial band (ITB), also referred to as the Iliotibial tract, is actually a fibrous band of fascia or connective tissue. The fascia acts as a reinforcement or protective layer to the muscles of the lateral leg. It is one of the thickest pieces of tissue in the body. In layman’s terms, the ITB connects at the top of the pelvis on the side and runs down the leg to insert just below the knee on the outside. At the insertion site, the band moves back and forth as we straighten and bend the knee. So you can visualize that when the band gets tighter the friction and rubbing at the knee will be more intense. The rubbing irritates the band and causes inflammation and pain at the knee. This pain is diagnosed as ITB syndrome. The causes of ITB syndrome include:

  • Overuse of the knee on hard surfaces or uneven terrain
  • Tightness of the ITB and surrounding hip musculature (ie. tensor fascia latae, gluteus maximus)
  • Leg length differences
  • Pronation of the foot
  • Knocked knees

You can grasp the importance of stretching and maintaining the flexibility of the ITB and surrounding musculature of the hip. The best two stretches I have found are seen here. In the first exercise you lay on your back with a band or towel wrapped around the foot and pull the leg straight up. Then, slightly cross the leg over your midline keeping it straight. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat three times.

The second stretch is performed in the standing position. Cross the tight leg behind the other and bend forward from the waist. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3 times on each side.

Susan here again: I always pay attention to the IT band during massage sessions. It’s tighter than it should be for many of us. And massage strokes aimed at loosening the IT band can help increase flexibility. I am always reminded my IT bands are tight when my son jumps on them when we’re wrestling. He always thinks it’s funny what a big reaction he can get from mom. Kids are helpful in so many ways, right?

Fighting a Cold

I was home-bound for a couple of days this week fighting a cold. I learned a neat trick in massage school that I’ll share with you. This is a strategy I sometimes use when fighting a cold, especially during the phase when I feel it lurking in my throat. It’s based on an activity we did that was geared towards the whole body. Read the story below.

hard to find a wool scarf in So Cal

Here’s what you’ll need for the targeted neck-only version:

  • 2 thin dish towels
  • bowl of ice water
  • 2 wool scarves (or warm thick scarves of another material)

1. Soak 2 thin dish towels in ice water until they are very cold.

2. Wring out excess water and quickly wrap the 2 towels around your neck.

3. Quickly wrap 2 wool scarves around your neck covering the wet towels.

4. Sit with neck wrapped for at least 15 minutes. Repeat 1-2 times if desired.

The idea behind this protocol is that the body feels the cold on the neck and starts sending extra blood to the area to warm it up. Of course the neck is where the throat is and the throat is where the germs are. More blood means more white blood cells, the kind that attack germs. This first step of the body’s response generates some heat. The heat is then trapped in the area by the layers of wool scarves, keeping the area heated for about 15 minutes until everything starts to return to a normal temperature. The extra white blood cells brought to the area by this process can devote their attention to fighting any bad-guy germs that may be setting up shop in your throat.

Back to the full-body version of this double cold sheet wrap. It was crazy! We basically got ourselves really hot by running around and doing calisthenics in full winter gear: coats, boots, hats and scarves. Then we disrobed to just the basics, wrapped ourselves in 2 bed sheets that had been soaking in ice water. We then wrapped up in 2-3 layers of wool blankets, donned hats and laid down for a couple hours. Our body heat soared in response to the cold layers next to our skin. The outer layers kept all that generated heat trapped in our little cocoons. At the end of the 2 hours, we unwrapped from our cocoons and had a huge bucket of ice water dumped over us.  The process is supposed to draw out toxins from the body and really marshall the body’s response system to meet this hydrotherapy challenge.

Lots of caveats here for blog world. Don’t try this at home without some research. We did this in a very carefully supervised environment. A profile of general health is an absolute must for this kind of adventure. And, just for the record, I’m not advising you do this, am not a doctor, and am simply telling a story here.

Hot & cold

If you’ve been a client of mine for any length of time you’ve probably heard me share one of my favorite tricks for loosening up tight muscles. The use of heat and ice can do wonders for overworked muscles. Hot packs and ice packs are relatively cheap. The only other things you need are some time and common sense. Here’s how it works for the neck/shoulder muscles.

Find something you can heat like this crescent-shaped neck wrap. The kind I like best is sold here. You don’t have to be fancy, though. Filling a tube sock with rice can work great also. Place it around your neck and leave it there for about 12-15 minutes or until you feel it cool down. If you purchase a product, it will come with heating directions. If you’re using rice in a sock, heat in the microwave in 30 seconds increments until it’s hot. Be careful you don’t get your heat pack so hot it burns you (this is the common sense ingredient).

The heat dilates the blood vessels in the area, bringing fresh, oxygenated blood to the tired, overworked muscles. The fresh blood brings nutrients to the area and whisks away waste products. Next, you’ll switch to cold, which constricts the blood vessels. In the end you’ll want to alternate between hot and cold 3-5 times for maximum benefit. The dilating and constricting of the blood vessels manually pumps blood through the area, reviving it and restoring health to the tissue.

Ice packs come in all shapes and sizes. Here I’m modeling a long, flexible ice pack. Since it doesn’t wrap around the neck, I’m holding it, which is not ideal. I like to use smaller flexible ice packs and sit back in a comfortable chair or lie down so that the ice pack stays in place. Be careful to place something between your skin and the ice or ice pack so that you don’t get a burn. Again, fanciness is not required. Packs of frozen peas work really well too. Have the ice in place for 8-12 minutes.

In this post I’m showing neck/shoulder care, but the same strategy can work for any muscle group. You can also add some massage after the heat segments to loosen up the muscles more. You can do this yourself or have someone massage the targeted muscles. An additional benefit of the heat is that is softens the connective tissue surrounding the muscles and makes the area more pliable.

Write to me if you have any questions. Remember the common sense piece. And, lastly, I’m not a doctor; this is not medical advice; you may employ this self-care strategy at your own risk. Thanks for reading!