By Guest Blogger Adam Brown, LMT, NHE, MCT
When most people think of sports massage, they typically imagine a lot of stretching and
deep tissue work. They might even imagine pain. Good therapists vary their pressure
greatly according to their client’s comfort level and desired depth of bodywork, but it is not
uncommon for greater amounts of pressure in localized areas to cause a pain response in
the massage recipient. This is typically characterized by muscle “guarding” or tensing and
either a sharp inhale of breath or holding the breath all together. Both of these responses
tend to be counterproductive as far as the overall goal of most massage sessions is
concerned, which is to provide therapeutic relaxation to muscles and soft tissue in order to
reduce pain and tension and decrease injuries.
Another often overlooked positive outcome of effective massage work is a relaxation of the
autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system has two branches, or two sides
of the coin, if you will: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. You may
have heard these two branches referred to colloquially as the “fight or flight” and the “rest
and digest” systems respectively. If you struggle with keeping the two straight, just think ‘S’
for stress and sympathetic and ‘P’ for peace and parasympathetic.
The primary functions of the parasympathetic nervous system are well illustrated by the
phrase “rest and digest” (and we could also add reproduce). These functions allow the body
to build, repair, heal, and carry on life, so to speak. Conversely, the sympathetic nervous
system kicks into gear in dangerous and/or stressful situations, elevating the heart rate,
increasing muscle tone, and essentially getting one ready for action. From the viewpoint of
evolutionary biology, we can understand how it would be beneficial to quickly go from a
state of rest to a state of flight if we think of our ancestors’ needs to evade predators at a
moment’s notice in order to survive.
Our bodies function best when they can actively switch between the parasympathetic and
sympathetic nervous systems as our environment dictates. However, our achievement
driven Western society has conditioned most of us to remain in a constant state of fight or
flight. While there is not necessarily a saber-toothed tiger chasing us on a regular basis, as
there may have been for our ancestors, we often experience similar physiological response
to the stressors of daily life -- running late for work, traffic on the daily commute, public
speaking, first dates, parenting, etc. And these metaphorical predators never quite seem to
go away as we hold on to them in our anxious thoughts and worries from day to day.
The reason it is important to understand the difference between the sympathetic and
parasympathetic nervous system and the effect massage has on them is that being stuck in a
constant state of fight or flight (or freeze) has been shown to have many health detriments,
such as weight gain and a depressed immune system. The pressure applied in a moderate to
deep tissue massage (done without eliciting a pain response) can help activate the
parasympathetic nervous system and slow down the sympathetic nervous system. So, yes,
it’s actually good for you to learn to relax!
One of the best ways I have found to provide my clients the deep, relaxing pressure they
desire while eliciting as little pain response as possible, is a specialized massage technique
known as Ashiatsu. This modality utilizes the therapist’s feet instead of their hands to
provide broad, deep pressure. Ashiatsu is ideal for achieving deeper pressure with little to
no pain because the surface area of the ‘tool’ applying the pressure is increased and long,
smooth, stokes are used to maintain consistent pressure throughout. One of my clients said
after their “ashi” session that it reminded them of the comfort of a weighted blanket.
In addition to the benefits to your muscles and nervous system, Ashiatsu can also help
improve posture and circulation, decrease chronic pain, and improve joint mobility.
Ashiatsu is available at our sports massage center for sessions of 60 or 90 minutes. Schedule
your Ashi massage today and let me help chase your saber- tooth tigers away!
Moderate pressure of massage can cause a parasympathetic nervous system response:
Increased sympathetic nervous system activity demonstrate in obese patients:
By: Guest Blogger, Jessica Slager LMT
As a Licensed Massage Therapist, I find my greatest satisfaction is in helping people who are suffering from emotional trauma, PTSD, physical limitations and/or have some other special emotional or physical needs.
Massage therapy can help people feel comfortable, by providing a safe environment where they can receive touch and healing for their body and soul. As a massage therapist, I also help teach people safe and effective self-soothing and stress reduction techniques. Massage can be very beneficial for people who are receiving talk therapy with a trained professional, as well as those who are struggling with disassociation.
According to PTSD United, approximately 24.4 million people are suffering from PTSD at any given time. Long term effects of dealing with either PTSD or trauma can include sleeplessness, flashbacks, depression, anxiety, anger, chronic pain, fatigue to name a few. Massage therapy can actually help to “retrain the brain.” No matter if the trauma is emotional or physical, large or small, it causes a reaction between the mind and body’s autonomic nervous system. This results in a “flight or fight” response. Even long after a trauma has occurred, the subconscious mind still remembers. Retraining the brain doesn’t happen over night -it takes time for the brain to form new pathways.
As reported in Massage Today, massage sessions result in positive biochemical changes in the body, such as increased serotonin and dopamine. The over all effect of this is a noticeable reduction in feelings of fear and anxiety. Studies also show trauma clients who receive massage therapy have up to 30% lower cortisol levels after the massage, and they showed a significant reduction in physical pain, tension, anxiety, worry and depression.
During a massage, the therapist addresses muscles, tendons and soft tissues in the body. Massage can help to work out knots and stress, relieve pain and increase flexibility. Compassionate human touch stimulates positive feeling hormones in the body and starts the relaxation process. Relieving stress, decreasing anxiety, reducing depression and improving personal mood are all positive outcomes massage may provide.
Guest KAWBlog entry by: Mike Limerick, AT, LMT
While living in Florida, I had the luxury of running and cycling year round, although the “curse” of near perfect weather every day did lead to some “over-training” injuries, or “itises” (a fancy medical term for inflammation), as I like to call them. Now, fast forward to my life in Michigan, I find my training starts to diminish during the winter months, due to frigid temperatures and/or snowy, icy roads and trails. However, both in Florida and in Michigan, we still find athletes getting the same injuries. Despite the winter slow down, overuse is still a real issue. So, here are three easy ways to help prevent/decrease your chances of getting the "itises":
1. Massage & Bodywork
Receiving regular massage and/or bodywork throughout the whole year will definitely help keep you healthy. Think about your vehicle - you perform regular maintenance on it to improve its longevity, so why not perform regular maintenance on your body? Massage is a great way to become more attuned to your body, recognizing where restrictions, or soreness might be developing. Also, it speeds up recovery by flushing out metabolic waste, bringing in nutrients while decreasing soreness to the overworked muscles, allowing you to exercise with fresh legs the next day. At home, using a foam roller for 30 to 60 seconds for five repetitions has shown to result in an increase in range of motion and a reduction in delayed onset muscle soreness (Button, 2014).
2. Focus on the Basics During Your Off Season
Working on your form during the off-season is a must. Studies show that most people gravitate back to our most habitual movements, which often sets us up for failure. For runners, that means we start mimicking our walking patterns. This may cause over striding and heavy heel striking, which increases our chances of getting hurt. I recommend joining a club or camp and/or working with a coach, or sports specialist. Remember, concentrating on form not only reinforces the movement pattern for your sport, but it also improves your efficiency. This causes your body to utilize less energy, which increases your endurance and will definitely help you set a new PR. As the saying goes “If you don’t use it you lose it.”
3. Cross Train
You never see a professional athlete play his sport and call it a day. These individuals are working side by side with strength and conditioning coaches, hitting the weights, running, spinning, jumping, crawling and anything else that’s thrown at them. The purpose of cross training is to not only maintain your conditioning but also to strengthen the body in ways your primary sport does not. This allows those muscles, tendons, and ligaments that are normally stressed to rest and adapt. So choose activities that are completely different from your sport. Runners may swim to give their bodies a rest from the constant impact force during landing. Cyclists may play racket ball to add impact and multi angular movements that are neglected while riding their bikes.
Remember, listen to your body, keep moving, and always have fun. Cheers!
Button, D. (2014, April).
Foam rolling: Early study findings suggest benefits. Retrieved from https://lermagazine.com/article/foam-rolling-early-study-findings-suggest-benefits
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”
-Henry David Thoreau
Has it really been five years? In early 2013, the dream and future vision for KAW was
firmly in my head, but I was happily working for SolSpring and assumed that
the reality of opening my own business would be at least 5 years down the road. Then
their main location unexpectedly closed and I realized that the time was NOW to
make my move. My dream was to offer the highest quality massage therapy and
personal training in the Kalamazoo area, with a special emphasis on athletes. I also
envisioned partnering with a chiropractor, health coach and sports psychologist – in
short, to provide a “one stop” health and wellness facility to support athletes and the
The first 2 years was rough – I won’t lie! I think I gained about 20 pounds! Start up
money was minimal and the challenges/stresses of starting up a new business and raising a new family were
very real. I was feeling confident in what we were doing, but was also frustrated at the snail pace of growth. However, I persevered with the help and support of my family and friends – and here we are, celebrating five years!
And the best is yet to come!
In February 2019, we are planning to move to a new,
expanded location on S. Westnedge Ave, in partnership with Antoniotti Chiropractic.
Our new facility will have more therapy rooms, giving us the opportunity to also
add a sports psychologist – another piece of my initial dream of providing
comprehensive, all-inclusive, personalized, holistic health and wellness services
under one roof.
This move will involve changes – which are often hard and uncomfortable, while
they are happening. But the end result will be worth it all!
I am very proud and humbled by the great team of people who have come together
to make Kalamazoo Athletic Wellness so successful. I want to give a shout out to
everyone here past and present– I could not have done it without you!
And a big “THANK YOU” to all our clients (both individual and corporate) who have taken a chance on KAW and
allowed us the opportunity to work with you – especially the Western Michigan
University football team. Without you, we would have surely perished in those first few years!
One lesson I have learned over the last five years is to say “Yes” more often. It hasn’t
always been easy, but it has been fun. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, and I
can’t wait to see what the next five years bring!
Today I wanted to share the story of one of our Massage Therapists, Jillian Strobel, and her journey to Africa. She left last year to pursue what she felt was her calling and now she is back in Kalamazoo. Here is a taste of her amazing journey.
"For the past 9 months I've had the privilege to do Missionary work in Uganda, Africa. I went by myself to Uganda and worked with two different organizations. One of them is called Amahoro Children's Home. This organization is focused on housing orphan children, educating them and helping them with any of their needs. I got to spend 5 months teaching the kids, playing with them and having one on one counseling with some of them. This group was amazing! I also got to work with another organization called Kyampisi Childcare Ministry (KCM) which focused on helping Children that have been victims of Child Sacrifice. I was exposed to a whole different world at KCM, not knowing much about Child Sacrifice, I learned a lot and got to be around the kids that have gone through these horrible experiences. I got to befriend them, help them, encourage them, etc. It was an honor being there, working so closely with them and I now get to help expose to the world, through progressively writing a book about what is actually happening in Uganda, the struggles and the hardships. Also to show the world that Ugandans are a people with more love, joy, strength and peace than you can ever imagine. There is something so special about them...there is something so special about Uganda. It was a very rewarding experience that I will never forget. I even got to use my massage knowledge/skills to help a little boy (a victim of Child Sacrifice) recovering from surgery, using techniques I knew for water physical therapy! It was so cool!
Moving forward, I am continuing writing, and also still working on projects with some of my Ugandan friends. My encouragement to you is if something has been placed in your heart to do, don't just sit and think about it. Do it. Your whole world can change just by taking a small step."
I realize it's been a while since I have written anything in the KAWBlog. The good news is that I have been busy working on growing and expanding Kalamazoo Athletic Wellness to provide our clients with a growing list of options among a cohesive network of specialists. One thing that has become abundantly clear during that time, is that it is hard to grow when people don't show. We all recognize that life sometimes happens, and that is why initially we had set a very soft request to give 24 hours notice of cancellation with no repercussions in place. But there is nothing more annoying than a client who frequently no shows or cancels a massage just hours before their session. All massage therapists rely on the commissions of clients coming in for services. For a majority of the massage industry (save for a few "massage factories" as we call them) it is far more important to us that you are getting proper care vs. how often you come in, but we also need to make a living. Someone not showing for a session can be a big cut into our pay. That is why after much discussion we have moved forward with a cancellation policy that is similar to what a majority of the industry holds true. Below is what we are putting in place:
We recommend scheduling all appointments 24 hours advance, unless otherwise posted or advertised. If you require a same day appointment, you may call 269-373-1000 for availability or check through our website www.kzooathleticwellness.com (Online appointments cannot be made within 4 hours of scheduled time).
Please respect our time and the time of others. When you schedule an appointment, your appointment is blocked just for you to ensure you receive the full amount of time you have requested. Our therapists are paid on a commission base. Late arrival to an appointment means less time with a therapist. You may stay, but you will only receive the balance of your session and you will still pay the full price. We recommend clients plan to arrive 5 to 10 minutes before their session to ensure there is adequate time for paperwork or unforeseen traffic conditions.
NOTICE OF CANCELLATION POLICY
We request notification of cancellation as soon as possible and must be received by phone if within 24 hours. Clients who cancel their reservations within 24 hours will not incur a fee the first time; subsequent cancellations may be charged a $30 cancellation fee for the first three occurrences after being assessed on a case by case basis. In the event of a no-show (client fails to arrive for scheduled appointment with no notice via phone) the client will be charged full price for the scheduled session. Four or more cancellations and/or no-shows may require a client to pay in advance for services. Therapists are not required to wait longer than 15 minutes for late arrivals who have not called ahead. If you are tardy for your appointment by 15 minutes or more and the therapist has not heard from you, the therapist has the right to leave the site or refuse service and consider you a no-show for your appointment. From there, no-show policies will apply.
Thank you and stay healthy!
As the Broncos create history with their currently undefeated season I can't help but feel amazed that I get to be a part of it. This is our fourth season working with the team alongside the strength and conditioning crew to keep the players healthy and ready to be ELITE. Watching the growth of these players has been an absolute dream come true. I wanted to take some time to chat with Coach Dan Nichol, head strength coach for the team, about why they chose to include massage as a part of the conditioning for these players.
Coach Nichol is a man of large stature, and obviously must have played linebacker or defensive end during his own college career at Springfield College in Massachusetts. You can usually see him on the sidelines keeping players and coaches wrangled behind the sidelines. Before each play he gets into his ingrained athletic stance as if his body has not let go of being right in there with the players. The first time I ever spoke with Dan was over the phone regarding getting the team massages during the first preseason camp of the PJ Fleck era. I honestly could only understand half of what he said due to his thick Bostonian accent. "My wife is from twenty minutes away from me and she is sometimes like 'hey, WHAT?" Dan admits. After four years however I have gained an ear for it, or maybe our Michigan accents are melding in and creating a hybrid I can understand. Whatever the case, we sat down together after the team went 9-0 for the first time ever and we discussed our involvement in this historical achievement.
When we first came in I was told that massage was a key component that Coach Fleck wanted to have in the conditioning program. When I asked Dan why that was he explained, "I think it's really important for our guys, we want them to stay healthy and cut down on your risk of any soft tissue injuries. You see out there sometimes with athletes soft tissue issues hold them back. Which should never happen. You should always continue to improve the structure of the body. " He went on to say, "Now with post game, post game recovery [we] get that done on Sunday, get the body felling pretty elite. It's a huge part, huge part of the process in getting these guys recovered and ready for the next week."
When asked about his personal experience with the benefits of massage Coach Nichol said, "It's been outstanding, I mean huge with mobility work. I'm a pretty stiff guy, especially upper back and neck and everything. It's just tremendous, you feel like a different person when you are done with a massage."
While I see the smiling faces and get the praise directly from the players, I wanted to know what benefits Coach saw in the athletes. "It's tremendous in helping your body mentally and physically, I think more mentally than anything. You see a kid comes out after a fifteen minute massage it's amazing, they just feel like a new person. They open up different pathways in their bodies that were maybe been blocked by tissue and things like that. These guys just feel amazing. And then they love it, they love it, they really enjoy it." He elaborated, "The recovery has been more efficient. Returning to play and also mobility, mobility is huge. That's improved a lot in our hips and our backs, hamstrings, those types of things. I think it's a credit to the massage work we've done in here on a weekly basis. Now there are other ways, other opportunities to do that, but this huge, this something that somebody comes in and does this for them. You don't have [that] everywhere. We have it here. That's our way, that's our advantage."
"We maximize every opportunity to improve the body, improve the recovery, with our hydration, with our eating, with our sleeping. And [massage] is a part of it. It also helps out the emotional side. Keeps the three fires burning, physical, mental, and emotional. Keeping those on high, this is another piece...this is a piece that makes them different." says Coach. "You know, and taking advantage of it, taking advantage of these opportunities to grow and take care of the body. Huge, huge part in their recovery."
On a personal note, I asked Coach Nichol what the hardest thing about coaching was. "Everyday is a challenge, but everyday is paradise. You know, it's really not a job, it's a passion." I smiled internally at the simple yet powerful statement that it was. "The best part of the challenge is when you see guys grow, from a boy to a man. You know, a guy that takes the leadership. Leads others and influences others. We've got a tremendous group of leaders here, that have done a tremendous job. They have a love for the game, and a love for each other. They play for each other."
I can only fathom how incredible it has been for this group boys to become men and achieve something very few people have the pleasure of achieving. But as every coach will tell you, take it one day at a time, one game at a time. Now that I have come this far on my own personal journey, I know I can achieve more if I just keep rowing the boat.
I met Linda Elstun a little over four and a half years ago. From the first time I worked on her I knew she was one of a kind. Strong, driven, humorous, and humble. When I heard I was going to get my first Cross Fit client I had no idea what I was in for. I had never heard of Cross Fit. I thought I was gonna get someone who was a cross trainer, and in walked this woman in her late forties with arms as big as mine, and the thighs of an NFL running back. I was instantly amazed at the power she possessed. After four years that strength has never ceased to amaze me. I felt her story needed sharing.
Linda grew up competing in gymnastics, beginning at age eight and continuing throughout college. After graduation, she participated in triathlons but then began to focus more on cycling. Five years ago, a friend introduced her to CrossFit*, a community-based exercise and fitness program. “I thought my competitive days were over, but I qualified for the CrossFit Games Master Competition in 2012 [where she placed 13th]. There is a certain satisfaction that comes from putting yourself on the line. It is scary, but being able to overcome fear and perform at your best really contributes to a feeling of accomplishment,” explains Linda.
Then the unthinkable happened. In 2014, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had just returned from her second Cross Fit Games, where she had placed 4th a mere 26 points out of 3rd place. She was already implementing plans to improve her athletic performance, but instead, found herself formulating a plan to beat her cancer. After a a few months of Chemotherapy, Linda chose to undergo a bilateral mastectomy due to complications with the chemotherapy. She followed this with three months of daily radiation. “[I] thought it would be easier to deal with no boobs rather than just one!” She explains with that trademark humor. In July of 2015 her treatment was complete.
Linda is now in remission and she recently returned from competing in the 2016 Cross Fit Games where she placed 17th, (with a smile on her face) exactly one year after finishing radiation treatment! She says that trying to recover her fitness level was extremely difficult and frustrating. “ My family and friends are super-supportive, and my training partner really helped me stay motivated,” she says. “I am still working on getting back to my top level of competition but I am happy with my progress.” Her goals for for next season is to strengthen her weaknesses, particularly running.
As a competitive athlete, busy wife and grandmother, how does she take care of herself? Linda says that eating a proper diet, getting plenty of sleep and receiving massage are keys to maintaining her health, especially as an older athlete. “Massage therapy is an indispensable tool in my recovery arsenal. Nick is able to apply techniques that reduce my recovery time and soreness, while improving my muscle function and efficiency. In combination with stretching, I believe that a well-timed massage can cut recovery time in half. Less recovery means more time for quality training and sustained daily exertion.”
Linda’s advice to older adults just starting an exercise program is, “Be patient. Be consistent. Don’t give up.” Regarding her cancer, she hesitates to call herself “cancer-free.” She knows there are no guarantees. But, she reminds us that no one has any guarantees. Thanks, Linda, for sharing your story and inspiration.
Thank you to Linda Elstun for always being an inspiration to me and those you have daily contact with!
(Linda is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist who lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan)
*CrossFit is a unique exercise/fitness program developed by Greg Glassman. It consists of constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity. The community that spontaneously arises when people do these workouts together is a key component of why CrossFit is so popular and effective. CrossFit is customized to fit every individual’s ability and goals and sponsors regional and national competitions. For more information, check out www.crossfit.com."
"10 years, has it really been 10 years?" I keep asking myself this over the last month. I graduated from Kalamazoo Center for the Healing Arts on March 31st of 2006, all fresh faced and wet behind the ears. I moved out of my parents house into a town house with my now wife. I started my career with the same company I just received my certification from. Had my first client in the first week of April. Started teaching massage a year later, starting with Anatomy classes, and quickly moving up to my own bodywork based class. So many changes that first year after graduation, it seemed like it was all moving so fast. Early in 2007 I asked my wife to marry me whilst on a hike in the Grand Canyon. A lovely foreign couple who obviously did not speak a lick of English graciously took our picture while I knelt down and sprung the question. They understood that! I just kept plugging along and moving forward.
Then in the following year I grew stagnant. My wife got a job over in Clarkston, so I vowed to follow her. I failed to find a massage job over there, so fell into holding two jobs one a third shift gas station attendant, the other screen printing T-shirts. After a short 6 month stay, we moved back home, and I went back to work for KCHA. However the brief absenteeism left a hole in my clientele. Many had moved on to other therapists. I got married in August of 2008 and things began to move forward again.
In 2009 my wife and I began to look at purchasing a home. A ritual both agonizing and exciting in it's own right. That Easter while playing an innocent game of 21 with a kid 10 years my younger, I broke my elbow. I made sure to eat my Mother's Lasagna and then go to the hospital. Found out shortly there after I would need arthroscopic surgery for my elbow, right about the same time we were due to move into our new home. (got me out of that I guess) My future as a massage therapist was in the dark. How would it heal, would I be able to practice again? The unknowns drove me, and probably my wife in kind, nuts. It took about 6 months to begin doing mild work and about a year before I was able to practice at my full potential again. Needless to say, this also punched a gaping hole into my recently rebuilding practice. It was at this time I decided I needed to reevaluate my goals as a therapist. What was the one thing I could see myself truly enjoying in my career. Then I thought, as I watched football on Sunday, "Wouldn't it be great to work for the Detroit Lions?" Bam, like a Hummer full of concrete it hit me. Sports, I could work with athletes!
Now I never was much into sports, outside of auto racing, as a kid. I played backyard football and little league before high school, but nothing in high school or college. I grew a major passion for football, in particular, in my twenties. I immediately started to do research into what it took to become a sport massage specialist. I started taking continuing education classes, did a lot of self teaching of techniques, and gained a deeper understanding of kinesiology. I also started taking classes at KVCC that I thought could help me communicate with coaches and sports med staff. This turned into me pursuing a coaching certification. I began to gain a love affair with fitness and wellness as well as combining those things with massage. I started bugging my boss about starting to promote to local colleges and schools, and being the amazing supporter that she is, she gave me the reins. As I began to change the way I thought about massage and wellness, I started to realize I would need to someday have complete control if I were to create my dream. However this was still a 10 year plan in my eyes.
In early 2013 my boss, bless her heart, had to reveal the unfortunate news that we were losing our main spa facility. This is the place I had called my second home for 6 years. We still had a satellite office at the Bronson Athletic Club, but hours were limited there. Many therapist were choosing the path of opening their own office. I had to think long and hard at this time. In a few months my first child was due, I was still in school and planned to graduate that winter, and now I was losing hours at work. Do I dare try to open my own business at the same time? Sure...why not.
It was a mad dash to find a business partner, create a business plan, find a location, create a brand, and let all my clients know all while caring for an infant. Needless to say, things were chaotic at best. Somehow, through the dust, Kalamazoo Athletic Wellness was born. Finally my vision was beginning to develop. It was a nerve racking first two years. But I feel now that I am finally into the swing of things, it has to be time to throw a wrench into the spokes...right? Big changes are always afoot, especially at milestones like these.
As I look back, one thing is clear to me, I can only move forward if I remain open to possibilities, I say yes more, and I can always figure it out, or ask someone to help if I need it. Ok so that is like 4 things, but you get the idea. Sure when I think about it, I have accomplished a lot in the past 10 years, both personally and professionally. But there is always that piece of me that feels like the fresh faced, wet behind the ears kid, scared out of my mind about what's next.
Let's face it, if you are an athlete, injury is inevitable. It's not a matter of if, but when, especially in the more grueling endurance and contact sports. There is no magic way to avoid injury, plain and simple. However there are many ways you can help yourself avoid many of the more "preventable" injuries. Such as repetitive strain injuries, strains and sprains, and joint dysfunctions. True some people are just "injury prone" due to structural or postural idiosyncrasies, but they to can help reduce maybe the severity, or frequency, by following these steps. By no means am I revealing anything new to many of you, but hey, we learn through repetition ya? So here are your 5 reminders of how to play safe and avoid injury.
Remember those sit and reach tests in gym class? That was to check the flexibility of your back and hamstrings, and somehow that was supposed to show how flexible you are...like one plane of movement tells us anything. Flexibility is a widely recognized factor in tissue health. "The more flexible you are the less likely you are to injure." They say. Tell that to dancers and gymnasts! While it is true that there is no major correlation between flexibility and injury prevention, it certainly makes sense the reasons we do it. Ridged muscles and ligaments don't elongate well, thus create an increased risk of tearing, otherwise known as a strain or sprain respectively. The trick is knowing if you are inflexible due to a shortened muscle, or an elongated muscle. Sometimes a muscle can be what we call hyper-tonic or ridged and short. Other times the muscle can feel tight because it is already over stretched or elongated. Think of a rubber band already pulled tight, ready to snap. This is where it is important to know which is which, because an already elongated muscle, will not respond well to repeated elongation. Those muscles will actually respond better to strengthening versus stretching. This is where a knowledgeable massage therapist, PT, or personal trainer can help you. We would be able to look at your posture, do some assessments and tell you what is short and what is elongated. Then we can do what we do to improve upon that.
2.Proper warm-up and cool-down:
All to often I hear about people stretching during a warm-up or getting right into their car after a run. Sure we have a time limit, we have to go to the bank, get groceries, and meet Franny at the restaurant by 8. But your body will thank you, and you will get much more out of those exercises if you warm-up and cool-down properly. To warm-up you want to move! Static stretching should be avoided as most studies have shown that static stretching done before activity actually reduces performance and does not help in reducing injury. If anything it may actually promote injury to stretch cold muscles. Instead do a "dynamic" warm-up. This is a combination of movements designed to promote increasing of your heart-rate, warming of the tissue, and range of motion exercises. This can be done in 5-10 minutes and you should be breathing heavier, and a starting to sweat. It is, after all, a WARM-up. Consult the wonderousness of this Youtube sourced video!
A proper cool-down is NOT walking to your car. A proper cool-down involves gradually letting your heart rate normalize by slowing your pace or walking, if you are doing cardio. Now this is where static stretching fits into the picture. If you jump into the sitting and stretching too soon you may incur a blood pressure imbalance. Your heart is still pumping at 160 bpm, however you are no longer assisting in the venous return by flexing your muscles in a rhythmic manner, causing blood to "pool" in your extremities. To suddenly stop moving you risk passing out or unnecessary fluid build-up. Once you have reached a heart rate of 120 bpm or less do some stretching for all your major muscle groups. Hold each stretch for at least the count of 10-20. Your muscles are nice and warm and pliable now, you will get much better stretching gains post workout. Holding it for a longer period of time will also help your nervous system remember the new tissue length.
3. Proper form and posture:
This bit is so important. Many people, much smarter than myself, have spent hours, and years even, to study and discover the proper technique to perform just about any athletic or work related action. Your body was built a certain way, you have muscles that attach at certain spots on certain bones, and they have a certain kind of leverage that is most efficient in a certain position. This is why teaching kids at a young age how to properly tackle an opponent is so crucial. This is also why we pay so much extra to see a good personal trainer or coach to show us how to do these things. I can tell you that a high percentage of work and play related injuries occur because of bad form and posture. This is also a topic that is constantly evolving. Remember in the old days of running you were probably told to strike with your heel roll to your forefoot and push off while you run. Well thanks to innovations in science, namely pressure plates on treadmills and slow motion HD cameras. We now know that it is far more efficient to run on our forefoot and create forward momentum through hip flexion and body angle. Say whaaaaat?! I offer a free running gait analysis with your first massage for this very reason. Most people have terrible running form and we certainly see a lot of them walk through our doors for Plantar Fasciitis, knee, hip, ITB, or back pain. Ask about our 9 week back to proper running form. Gazelle sports in Kalamazoo also has a free Good form running clinic I often recommend.
4. Proper Equipment:
Is your sporting equipment worn out, outdated, or simply the cheap option? Well you are asking for trouble my friend. Shoes, Helmets, Pads, cups, goggles, and such of all shapes, sizes, and brands. Now is not the time to be a cheap skate. In this world of sporting equipment, all to often, you get what you pay for. For example, football helmets. We all know that concussions are a major concern in this sport (Though concussions happen in almost all sports with football, lacrosse, hockey, wrestling, cheerleading, and soccer leading the pack). Football helmets are actually rated by a scale to test how concussion prone you would be if wearing this helmet called a STAR rating. This number is created after extensive testing, the lower the number the better the helmet. A good helmet would be about a .300, which roughly means you have a 30% chance per season of concussion. Some helmets on the market are actually rated over a 1.0. Which essentially means you are guaranteed a concussion during this season! Why would you buy that helmet? Bottom line is, do your homework, make sure it fits, and replace it before it fails.
5. Take care of your soft tissue:
What is the best way to care for your soft tissue you ask? Why, massage and a good strength training program is. Even if you are an endurance athlete, you NEED to strength train. Quite frequently runners knee is due to weak hip abductors not doing their job. You may hear health professionals throw the word "imbalance" around from time to time. We are usually referring to the fact that in a certain area of your body, the muscles that work opposing to each other are not of equal strength. This happens most often in the core muscles. A majority of people are very strong in the back and hip flexors, but weak in the abdominals and hip extensors. This leads to a postural inefficiency known as lower cross syndrome. The tell tail sign of this is over curvature of the lumbar spine. This type of "imbalance" can lead to groin, hamstring, and back injuries if not corrected. Cue the massage therapist, PT, or personal trainer to the rescue. Get some massages done on the Back and hip flexors, do some exercises for the abdominals and hip extensors, your posture should start to get better with repetition. Now you are on your way to being less injury prone. Another way massage can help is helping to break up old scar tissue from previous injuries. Scar tissue tends to be a bit like wet spaghetti, once its stuck in a wad, you need to carefully break it apart so you don't rip the strands. Scar tissue that has healed improperly is much more likely to re-injure, versus those that have been properly treated. Any good sports massage therapist should know how to properly treat an injury. Finally, make massage and strength training a regular part of your training program. Dr. Jordan D. Metzl, a frequent writer for Men's Health, and author of the book "The Athlete's Book of Home Remedies" says "I'm a huge believer in having a massage twice a month and even more often when you are training hard. This goes for athletes of all types. A good massage is one more way to help keep your muscles supple and less prone to injury."
These are just a few ways you can make yourself less prone to injury. I'm sure I will think of others, as I currently am thinking of at least 5 more, so look for a future blog to have more ideas. Stay healthy.
Nicholas Garman, LMT NSCA-CPT
|Kalamazoo Athletic Wellness||
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