My achy Lower Back

Low back pain is one of the most common complaints I see in my massage practice. The causes of low back pain are numerous and medical attention should be sought if pain is intense and persistent.

If the back pain is muscular based relief can be achieved by combining some basic therapies:

Ice therapy:  At the onset of acute pain ice is a very effective therapy.  Ice will reduce inflammation and pain, while also drawing healing blood to the area.  Ice therapy is effective for the first 12-36 hours.

Light Activity:  I know light activity may not sound like a therapy, but it is important to the healing process.  Remaining mobile and, if possible, some light cardiovascular activity (slow walking, etc.) will help muscles retain their strength as well as get fresh blood flowing through the muscles.

Massage Therapy:  Massage may be the most effective treatment for muscular low back pain. Massage has been shown to release endorphins, improve oxygen and blood flow to muscles, reduce tension and increase relaxation.  I recommend massage 24-48 hours after acute pain presents itself.  This allows for the muscle splinting that occurs after initial injury to subside.

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My thoughts on Deep Tissue Massage

In my Atlanta massage practice many of my clients are looking for relief from chronic pain. Deep tissue massage is one of the most effective treatments to help with chronic muscular pain/spasm, repetitive strain injuries and Fibromyalgia.

Deep tissue massage is the use of muscle penetrating pressure combined with slow, muscle lengthening strokes to help break up adhesions within muscle tissue.

My philosophy on deep tissue work is it should be intense, but bearable.  I talk with my clients about a 10 point pain scale.  If 10 equals such intensity the client would want me to stop, I really do not want clients above a 7 on that scale. Deep issue techniques will be intense as pressure is needed to break up adhesions within muscle tissue, but I don’t want my clients flinching or the muscle contracting against the pressure.  I feel flinching and muscle contraction is contradictory to what we are trying to achieve during the session.   One of the keys to deep tissue massage, besides the use of pressure, is using slow methodical strokes. A slower stroke technique is both penetrating yet pain reducing allowing deeper pressure than a fast, muscle shocking, stroke.

While I use a variety of massage techniques, deep tissue massage is a foundation to my practice.  I feel deep tissue work can provide great relief to a variety of chronic pain issues through its ability to break up deep muscular adhesions.



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Fix It with Massage – Men’s

Here is a good article on The Benefits of Massage from Men’s  Some of these benefits are pretty well known, but others might be surprising to some.

While most people are probably aware that regular massage can reduce pain and improve athletic performance, I am glad the article points out the true physiological benefits massage is shown to provide with respect to reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and improving digestion.  The relaxed “wet noodle” feeling many of my clients describe after a session is not just an emotional or mental state, but a true physiological change demonstrating the ability of massage to jump start the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the branch of the nervous system that stimulates the relaxation response in the body.

So, if you are wanting to reduce stress in the body, lower your blood pressure or just increase your ability to relax book an appointment with me.


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Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome

One of the most common afflictions in runners is Iliotibial Band Syndrome (IT Band Syndrome) which is symptomatic of knee pain in the lateral (outside) knee.

What is the Iliotibial Band (IT Band)?

The Iliotibial Band (IT Band) is a thick layer of fascia on the lateral (outside) leg running from the hip to just below the knee. This thick fascia is vital in providing stability and support for the lower body.

What is IT Band Syndrome?

When the IT Band becomes excessively tight it can cause pulling on its insertion at the knee and cause mild to severe pain. The primary muscles involved in IT Band syndrome are the Gluteus Maximus and the Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL). These muscles are important elements in running (Gluteus Maximus) and standing (TFL). When one or both of these muscles pulls the IT Band tight it causes the IT Band to exert greater pressure on its insertion at the knee, causing the bursa (fluid filled sac) under the IT Band to become inflamed and cause pain. IT Band Syndrome can be triggered by a number of things:

· Sudden increase in mileage

· Strenuous hill work

· Poor pelvic or foot mechanics

· Poor running shoes

· Uneven surface conditions

· Track running

The Benefits of Massage on preventing and treating IT Band Syndrome.

Massage is extremely beneficial in helping to prevent and or treat IT Band Syndrome. Deep tissue massage along the Gluteal muscles and the TFL can help keep these muscles loose and prevent them from pulling the IT Band tight; thereby, reducing the risk of IT Band Syndrome. Also, massage strokes that both lengthen and broaden the IT Band itself can help reduce tightness within the IT band. General massage of the muscles of the leg can bring balance to the lower body and help reduce general tightness and release restrictions in the muscle. These same techniques can be used to help treat IT Band Syndrome after its onset. After the onset of IT Band Syndrome, other treatment methods such as: icing, reducing or stopping running, correcting foot or gait mechanics, and specific stretches may also be necessary to assist in healing.

Preventative maintenance massage can be extremely beneficial to anyone who is newly training, increasing training intensity or mileage, or has poor stretching habits. Massage can bring awareness to the runner of what is going on in the body, and early awareness can bring focus to potential problem areas before they become injuries.


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A Good Article on Stretching at the Office

In my therapeutic massage practice I often talk with my clients about their stretching routine. Most of the time the stretching discussion involves including more stretching into their exercise program. However, different stretching programs can help us all alleviate tension and stress in our muscles from activities besides exercise.

Recently, an article @ Men’s discussed 7 easy stretches to do at work.  This article is so appropriate since tension and tightness from repetitive daily movements is so common today.  So many of us have jobs that involve sitting at a desk for long periods. Even as a massage therapist I spend many hours sitting at a computer doing administrative work. This repetitive sitting/computer work can cause chronic back/shoulder tension patterns that can impact our ability to function at our best.  I jokingly call it the 21st century disease, since I would say 90% of my clients indicate upper back and shoulders as their primary area of focus during a therapeutic massage session. The stretches outlined in this article are appropriate for anyone that sits for long periods, whether that be doing computer work, studying or driving.  Also, I like the 20-20 rule mentioned in the article. For every 20 minutes sitting at your desk stand and shake/stretch things out for 20 seconds.

So click on the article link and try to incorporate these stretches every day.  I am confident you will improve your posture, reduce tension patterns and also improve focus and clarity at work. Of course including therapeutic massage as part of your periodic health maintenance program will also provide significant benefits.


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Fellow Health and Fitness Colleagues

Therapeutic massage is a key component to any individual’s health maintenence program.  I strongly believe that exercise, nutrition and proper health maintenance also play key roles in maintaining optimal health. Periodically, I want to highlight other Atlanta area health and fitness professionals/businesses that I have personally experienced and believe offer high quality services.

Dr. Greg Graham of Midtown Life Studio is a full spectrum Chiropractor. His focus is helping his patients maintain optimal health through chiropractic adjustment, lifestyle coaching and corrective exercise. From personal experience, I can attest to Dr. Greg’s calm, intuitive, and gentle nature. Although I always understood the benefits of chiropractic care, I was hesitant to receive chiropractic adjustment.  Dr. Greg was empathetic to my concerns and gently worked with me through my first session.  I have gone back a number of times and  (should be making a visit as I type this) am a firm believer in the benefits of chiropractic care. Therapeutic massage and chiropratic care are extremely complimentary therapies. For example,  therapeutic massage can help loosen tight muscles allowing for easier chiropractic adjustment.

Craig Krause of CORE by Craig is a certified Pilates instructor and personal trainer. He maintains his practices at Urban Body Studios and Urban Body Fitness. Pick up any health and fitness magazine and you will see article after article on the benefits of building and maintaining a strong “Core”. Click on the link to Craig’s web site above and read about the muscles that make up the “Core” and how Pilates targets these muscles. I have worked with Craig personally and can attest to his desire to help his clients achieve their goals.  He easily works with clients of all fitness levels and abilities.

Check out Dr. Greg’s and Craig’s web sites and make an appointment if you feel their services will help you achieve your health goals. As always, if you are in need of therapeutic massage please give Urban Body Studios a call @ 404.201.7994 and schedule an Utimate Massage with me.

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The Benefits of Stretching

While there are differing opinions on the benefits of stretching, I am a firm believer that stretching is an important part in maintaining a healthy body. When appropriate, I incorporate stretching into my deep tissue and sports massage practice to help loosen tight muscles.

Stretching helps return muscles to their normal resting length. Exercise and daily living continually contract muscles and after use muscles sometimes remain contracted and shortened. Focused,  static stretching can help return muscles to their natural relaxed length. Relaxed muscles correlate directly to increased range of motion and improved joint movement. These two key benefits are why I incorporate stretching into my deep tissue and sports massage sessions.

Basic Stretching Tips:

1. Always stretch when muscles are warm. So either stretch post exercise or after a 5 minute brisk warm up. Stretching cold muscles can lead to pulled muscles. If you only have time to stretch once within your exercise program I recommend stretching post exercise.  (Always do a 5 minute brisk warm up before beginning any strenuous exercise routine.)

2.  Always maintain comfort when stretching. Stretching is not a competition and should not be painful. You should feel a nice comfortable stretch in the belly of the targeted muscle.

3. Hold each stretch for 30-40 seconds. Hold the stretch do not bounce or repeatedly contract and stretch the muscle.

As  mentioned, I often incorporate stretching into my deep tissue and sports massage sessions. My clients also know I regularly ask about their stretching routines and often advise them to stretch as part of a regular self care regimen. There are many online articles that discuss the benefits of stretching and even provide guidance on stretches for specific muscles within the body.


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A Few Health Benefits of Massage Therapy

I recently did a short ten minute presentation to a small group on the benefits of massage therapy and thought I would share some of that presentation here. While massage can be perceived as a treat or indulgence, it is so much more than that. I truly believe massage is an essential part of health maintenance. Massage therapy is attributed to many positive physiological changes in the body.

Massage therapy helps improve fluid circulation in the body. Improved blood circulation increases nutrient supply to muscle tissue. Improved lymph circulation helps remove waste products from the body. Overall, improved circulation is key to improving muscle tissue health and recovery from exercise or injury.

Massage therapy is probably best recognized as improving muscular relaxation.  This muscular relaxation is attributed to a number of different physiological and psychological activities occurring during a massage. These activities include: a jumpstart of the parasympathetic nervous system’s relaxation response, a conscious relaxation of muscle tissue by the client, increased sensory stimulation causing a readjustment in reflex pathways.

Massage therapy helps deactivate trigger points in muscle tissue. Trigger points are taut bands or knots in muscle and are tender to touch. Applying Ischemic pressure, stripping strokes, stretching and other massage techniques help deactivate these trigger points.

Massage therapy reduces anxiety/stress in the body. Anxiety reduction occurs because of the relaxation response triggered by massage. Also, endorphins are released during massage aiding in stress reduction. Finally, the conscious relaxation of the client during massage is attributed to anxiety and stress reduction.

All of these factors create that “totally relaxed” feeling massage clients consistently verbalize after a session. So although massage therapy feels indulgent, it really is a health improving essential.


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Massage Therapy Shown to Decrease Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Massage therapy has been shown to help reduce Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) that is experienced after new or intense physical activity.  DOMS usually occurs 24-48 hours after intense physical activity. Contrary to popular thought this muscle soreness is not due to lactic acid build up in the muscle. Studies have shown that lactic acid is removed from the muscle fairly quickly after physical activity. However, new or intense physical activity does cause a breakdown and rebuilding process within the muscle that can lead to inflammation and soreness. Even seasoned gym goers or athletes can experience this soreness after a particularly intense workout or when engaging in a new physical activity.

Massage can help!  Studies have shown that receiving massage therapy anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours after intense physical activity can reduce muscle soreness and inflammation in the muscle. It is believed massage therapy helps remove fluid and reduce the swelling that causes DOMS. Massage therapy aids recovery by improving blood and nutrient flow into muscles .

Include regular massage therapy in your training routine if you are planning to jumpstart your workouts or are training for a specific strenuous event. Massage therapy can reduce soreness, risk of injury and keep you motivated to achieve your goals.

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Ice vs Heat Therapy for Muscle Injury – Atlanta Massage Therapy

In my Atlanta massage therapy practice I am often asked by clients when they should use ice versus heat when treating a muscular injury. Here are the basic guidelines for the appropriate use of these techniques. However, if you feel you have suffered a serious injury medical treatment and diagnosis should be sought.

First, we must categorize injuries as either acute or chronic. Acute injuries (pain) are of rapid onset (specific trauma, accident)  and relatively short lived in duration. Acute injuries usually involve tenderness to touch, swelling, and redness of the area. Chronic injuries (pain)  develop slowly and are persistent and long lasting. Chronic injuries usually involve dull pain that may come and go and are often the result of overuse. Chronic injuries may result from an acute injury that was not treated properly.

Ice therapy is appropriate for the first 24-48 hours after an acute injury. Ice therapy reduces swelling, pain and internal bleeding at the injury site. Apply ice therapy directly to the injury site. A good rule of thumb is “ten minutes on 20 minutes off” application of ice. Wrap the ice pack in a thin towel for comfort and to protect the skin. Always check the site to make sure the skin tissue is not being damaged. Ice therapy can be applied several times a day for the first 48 hours when treating an acute injury. 

Ice therapy is also appropriate for treatment of some chronic injuries. Athletes that suffer from chronic overuse injuries can use ice post workout (competition) to reduce inflamation and pain.

Heat is generally used for chronic injuries or injuries with no swelling. Heat is good for stiff, nagging, achey muscle and joint pain. Heat can help relax tight muscles or muscle spasms. Athletes can use heat before exercise to increase joint mobility and increase blood flow. Moist heat is best and should be applied through a protective barrier (towel, clothing) to protect the skin from burns. Heat should not be applied for longer than 20 minutes at a time.

Advising on self care techniques such as ice and heat therapy is an important component of my Atlanta massage therapy practice.  Massage therapy combined with proper self care can achieve dramatic results in treating both acute and chronic injuries.


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