Your time on the massage table is a small part of your recovery and maintenance. What you do the rest of the day (and night) can have a profound impact on your body and on how you feel. To the best of my ability, I will provide you with tips and tools for your self care.
Self care can include the wide variety of activities and practices we employ to keep ourselves happy and pain-free. Some of these (e.g., stretching, movement re-patterning (see below)) are within my scope of practice and I offer them readily. Others are outside this scope, but I am open to sharing what has worked for me or my other clients if you are interested.
- Foam Roller
The foam roller is like your in-home massage therapist. You can roll on it along the length of a muscle or, better yet, find a tight, tender area and simply rest on the roller until you feel the muscle soften and the tenderness decrease. Place the roller perpendicular to the direction of muscle fibers and roll or rest as needed.
Relief through Rolling is a system of foam roller use that incorporates principles of structural integration to improve posture in addition to relieving pain from tight muscles. I have been trained in RtR and can show you how!
You can foam roll at any time: before a workout to warm up the muscles, after a workout to flush out waste products of exercise, and between workouts to target trouble spots. If you are going to stretch, too, foam roll first, then stretch.
There are a variety of stretching techniques. Some require assistance and others you can do on your own. Three I would like to highlight are Active Isolated Stretching, long duration stretching and dynamic stretching.
Dynamic stretching is appropriate for warming up muscles before exercise. The stretch is actually movement of the body that results in muscles loosening up a bit. For example, swinging your leg back and forth will warm up the muscles in the hip and thigh. Use dynamic stretching before a workout rather than another type of stretching to reduce the chance of injuring a “cold” muscle.
Active Isolated Stretching, developed by Aaron Mattes, takes the muscle’s “stretch reflex” into account by repeated short-duration stretches of two seconds. After two seconds, the stretch reflex causes the muscle to resist the stretch, making the stretching effort less effective. The body does this to prevent a sudden over-stretching of the muscle. So short-duration stretches get under the radar of this reflex, resulting in a greater stretch in a shorter amount of time.
Long duration stretching involves holding a stretch for much longer than the stretch reflex lasts. After 25 seconds, the stretch reflex has stopped and the muscle will begin to stretch. For a long duration stretch, stretch only until you feel the muscle becoming taut, hold, then increase the stretch as the muscle lets go, getting deeper and deeper into the stretch over time. A long duration stretch has a greater effect on connective tissue, which takes time to release.
I will incorporate stretching into your sessions as needed — and can add more stretching if you would like. I will also show you stretches you can do at home. The stretching you do on your own can help you maintain (and improve on) the muscle lengthening you achieve during massage.
To achieve the balance of muscle tension needed to reduce pain conditions, it is often necessary to strengthen weak, inhibited muscles. While I am not certified as a personal trainer, one of my instructors, James Waslaski, has been a personal trainer for many years. He has provided thorough self-care materials I can share with you that include strengthening exercises. As with any self care technique, I will explain the reasons for suggesting any particular strengthening exercise.
- Movement Re-Patterning
Our brains contain a “map” of our bodies and use that map to move us around in the world. The brain’s pathways for our common movements become clearly defined, but the pathways for less common movements become “muddied” over time from lack of use. So when a less common movement is called for, our brains might choose the clear pathway instead and move us in a way that is easier but not the best for our bodies. This can result in injury over time from moving improperly.
Our brains can develop faulty pathways of movement for a variety of reasons, including compensations we have made after an injury or because we mimicked the dysfunctional movements of others when learning to walk. Faulty pathways can lead to poor posture, chronic pain or injury.
Movement re-patterning involves retraining the brain to correctly coordinate our muscles in small movements that are part of our larger movements. With conscious attention and repetition, these small movements done correctly will create clear pathways of proper movement for the brain’s map.
When combined with massage and other forms of bodywork, movement re-patterning can help you maintain the restored muscle tone and posture achieved during your session. Movement re-patterning gets to the source of much soft-tissue discomfort by clearing up the faulty movement pathways that have lead to poor posture, pain and injury. You learn the movements during your session and then practice them on your own. Movements are performed for a short duration, pain-free and with your full attention. In a short time, you will find that your body naturally moves and holds itself better.