IT’S ALL CONNECTED!
“If all five kinetic chain checkpoints are lined up, clients will have less compensatory joint pain and can properly perform movements and do exercises without causing pain or injuries.”
This is a quote taken from The Massage and Myotherapy Journal Vol.19, Iss2 By James Waslaski, International Author and Lecturer, Manual Therapy
Often during a treatment session, clients comment “I can feel that down my back” or similar, when I am working on a neck or shoulder, say. And my comment in reply is usually, “Yes! It’s all connected”.
So what I (and the author of the above journal article), are talking about in this sweeping generalisation, is the kinetic chain pattern, which describes patterns of human movement.
Patterns generally begin from the feet (the main load bearers of the body) and flow upwards to the other points in the chain – the knees, the hips, spine, the shoulders and the neck.
In a healthy posture, both feet face forwards, the knees align over the ankles, hips evenly over knees, spine ascends from the hips, leading to level shoulders and the neck and head, which should be aligned with the spine.
This ideal alignment would mainly be common in committed practitioners of yoga or ballet or some other posture-centred exercise. The reality is that most people’s bodies are asymmetrical, leading to increased load one one side of the body over the other.
When treating the asymmetry, I’m looking visually and by feel, for shortened and tightened muscles. For example, with rounded shoulders, I would suspect that your pecs would be shortened, with weakness to the muscles between your shoulder blades (rhomboids), in a small muscle towards the tip of your shoulder (subscapularis) and the lower part of your shoulder (muscles of the rotator cuff group). Your rounded shoulders could be a result of prolonged sitting or standing postures, where your hips are not moving in their natural pattern.
So how can this be corrected? This will mainly be a question of your goals. True correction would include a treatment plan of muscular release (by a massage therapist, physio or osteo) and a complementary strengthening program, which could be designed by a personal trainer, physio or exercise physiologist. And in my opinion, rounded out by a deep stretching program such as could be provided by a yoga practice. (HINT: yoga provides both a strengthening AND stretching protocol in the single practice!) Ultimately, correction is a correction of habit and behaviour. So it’s not a quick fix type solution. But with a commitment to ongoing treatment, your pain can be managed and resolved so that you can continue to do the things in life that you enjoy.
TOP 3 PROFESSIONS THAT CAUSE DYSFUNCTION
Week to week I see both regular and new clients. Some are weekly sticklers, others are routine fortnightly or monthly. But the thing they have in common is the commitment to maintaining their body to its best functioning they can, to reduce pain and discomfort, with regular remedial massage.
Regular remedial treatment not only feels great and resolves the symptoms of presenting issues, but it PREVENTS things from getting worse or becoming debilitating. You know that feeling, when you’ve had a sore shoulder for a while, and it’s not really going away. It’s not getting worse, but it’s not really improving either. It almost becomes a part of you! Then all of a sudden you wake up one morning and can’t move your neck, and you’re walking around like Frankenstein trying not to aggravate it!I think we’ve all been there. This is the type of situation a good regular remedial massage treatment could have prevented. Often by the acute stage, it would take a few treatments to resolve. You’ll probably be in a decent amount of pain until it’s rectified. It might also take some combined modalities such as chiro, physio and remedial massage to get you going again. Wouldn’t you rather not let it get to that point in the first place?
Great news, there is something you can do about it!
When I talk to my clients about their professions, the most common I treat are nurses, tradesmen and hairdressers! And a broad group that fit into the “sedentary lifestyle” category.
- Nurses are on their feet for prolonged periods. They are repeatedly bending over taking obs, tending to their patients. While not overtly dangerous movement, it’s their repetitive and long term nature over many years that cause the damage.
- Tradesmen fit into a fairly wide category, and encompass all types of machinery operators, builders, miners; anyone performing repeated heavy lifting and use of their hands. Over time joints are wearing out, bad posture is forming and asymmetries are forming causing some muscles groups to over work, while others are under-utilised.
- Hairdressers are also on the feet for extending periods which places pressure on the lower back and legs. Using the scissors and hair dryers for extended periods causes the wrists to bend awkwardly and the shoulders to be recruited for extended periods. Again, it’s the repeated and constant postures that are forming injury and dysfunction.
- Sedentary lifestyle or lack of movement and exercise is a root cause of many diseases and health concerns. When the muscles are not engaging and being used, they become weak, inflexible and fibrous. They are not receiving adequate fresh nourishing blood and are not supporting the body in its correct posture. New dysfunctional postures form, muscles become short and tight, and one day the lower back ”goes” or you can’t move your neck. It’s essentially “the straw that breaks the camel’s back”. One day you overdo it or receive an injury, the damage more severe because the tissues weren’t flexible or healthy in the first place.
So in all, the everyday wear and tear of the body is going to happen with the ageing process. Add to that a physically demanding job, and there’s the recipe for pain and dysfunction in the body gradually leading to injury and more pain. I believe the best remedy, if you are in one of these professions, is to start taking care of your body, before it starts taking care of you. When the body’s had enough, it will let you know! And often the rehabilitation will take more effort and commitment than preventing the dysfunction in the first place.
REMEDIAL MASSAGE, CHIRO OR PHYSIO?
With so many body work modalities out there, it can be hard to know the right therapy to approach. I actually find that a combination of modalities used in conjunction with each other, can target and correct specific areas of concern to best effect.
So what are the different modalities, and what do they do? Below is a basic run-down, based on my own experience and understanding.
1. Remedial Massage
Of course this at the top of the list, because its what I do, and what I love! Basically remedial massage is the application of heat and pressure to the muscle fibres, in the direction of (or paralell or perpendicular to) the muscle’s active function, to squeeze muscle waste from the cells, bring fresh nourishing circulation to the area, and to smooth down muscle fibres that have become rough. Trigger points are usually in the main bulk, or belly of the muscle and can be active or inactive. When active, these are the tender spots that produce a hot or burning (and painful) sensation. Your therapist would generally hold a deep and static pressure until the sensation fades away.
Other techniques used in remedial massage can include hot stone, dry needling or cupping therapies. Therapists may choose to undertake qualifications in these specific areas additional to the base level Diploma required for remedial massage practice.
One of the benefits of remedial massage is the physical touch and relaxation experienced. Physical touch is known to produce oxytocin and serotonin, which are the feel-good hormones. So as much as it is a physical therapy, it also becomes a mental one as well.
This form of therapy targets the nervous system via areas of compression in the spine. The idea is to move the vertebra just past its regular range of motion, quickly and abruptly to release the pressure/compression between the vertebra. The actions usually produces a “cracking” sound. The idea is that when the nerves have a clear path and aren’t impinged by bones or other soft tissue structures, they fire and function better. In the context of muscles this means the muscles can have improved nerve function.
Chiropractic therapy does not release the muscles directly as remedial massage does, but can decrease the tightness felt between the muscles and the bones they connect to.
Physiotherapy concerns with the way the body moves and functions in terms of both bone and muscle structure. They are concerned with specific diseases such as Diabetes , Osteoarthritis, Osteoporosis, Neurological illnesses and Occupational Therapy, as well as Sports Injuries and prevention. They focus on resolving the systematic or routine causes of pain, such as injury, lifestyle habits and posture. It’s a holistic approach to the surrounding causes and prevention of injury and how these varying factors effect overall body movement. (Source: Allied Health Professions Australia).
Myotherapists treat and manage pain, injuries and dysfunction. They use similar and often the same techniques as remedial massage therapists (who have been trained in the specific areas of cupping and needling, for example) and often hold higher qualifications. They design and implement treatment and management programs based on client goals and desired outcomes. (Source: Myotherapy Association Australia).
This therapy I like to think of as a combination of Chiropractic and Remedial Massage Therapy. It is concerned with both soft tissue, muscular, skeletal and nervous conditions and how these systems interact with each other. It is a hands-on therapy with direct manipulations to to the tissues to produce a certain outcome. Osteos provide advice on movement, ergonomics, posture and pain management. (Source: Osteothopathy Australia).
My personal favourite. This ancient modality encompasses what I believe true “health” to be – the self management of ones own physical and mental health, accepting the complete responsibility of the individual’s own health for themselves. The practice involves the strengthening and lengthening soft tissues, while finding balance within posture, and calming the mind. I recommend the practice to everyone, because it is available to everyone, and doesn’t require any level of fitness or flexibility in order to begin. To know and understand your own body gives empowerment to take ownership of your own health, and create true wellness within.