By Guest Blogger: Ayiana Gaines, BS
After reading the headline, you may be thinking about all the good times you had in college playing sports and how could that experience possibly be negative? Your memories may include hard but satisfying workouts, fun outings with teammates and all the strong connections you made with everyone. Most of our memories may be great, but sometimes we tend to look past the negative effects that often remain after we’ve graduated and/or when our eligibility is up. I want to explore how structured physical activity, competitive sports participation, and our athletic identity may indeed have a negative effect on our mental, physical and emotional state later in life.
First - a little bit about me: I am a former D1 collegiate Track & Field athlete at Western Michigan University. From South Bend, Indiana, with lots of hard work and due diligence, I was recruited from Riley High School to WMU on a full-ride scholarship. Trust me when I say I was damn good at running a 400-meter race! I was doing great in college until near the end of my junior season, when I tore my ACL, MCL, and meniscus at practice. You probably know that this was a major setback. I really took a hit in my heart and mind, knowing I would be out for an entire year. I went to counseling to help me cope with the huge change of having so much free time on my hands and not being able to practice or compete anymore. All I could do was physical therapy and rehabilitation.
When I was finally ready to come back, I discovered there were some problems and issues on the team that made it difficult for me to concentrate. I was faced with a decision ... to subject myself to the drama and negativity or to give up my passion, my first love, the one thing I was really good at. I was always defined by my sport - track & field. But ultimately, I chose my mental health and well-being and dropped out of the team. It’s been a year now since I've competed, and it has not been easy. I still go back and forth wondering whether I made the right decision. Hopefully, in the future, there could be more programs to help support former athletes through this transition process.
It is usually a major shock to the body when a high school athlete transitions to collegiate training/practices and games/meets. The extended hours and increased level of intensity of collegiate training can have negative effects on your mental and physical health. Athletes who are hoping to continue on and compete professionally are sometimes limited by past injuries, the pain tolerance when enduring the high level of intensity, and etc. There is a lot of data that relates to athletes who have made it to the professional level, but what the data does not touch on are those athletes who have dedicated four or more years to their designated sport and then it all ended after college. Do you ever wonder how they are doing in their adult lives? Are they still competing or are they living a
sedentary lifestyle? How are they doing, physically and emotionally?
Zachary Y. Kerr conducted a study at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill to research the current health of former college athletes. Of the 797 former collegiate athletes who participated in the study, a majority reported that they now suffer from some degree of high cholesterol, anxiety and depression issues. They also reported some behavioral conditions, like alcohol dependence and uncontrolled eating, which has led to obesity. Without a coach or trainer telling them when, where and how much to work out, most did not have the self-motivation to work out on their own.
Another study, conducted by Janet E. Simon and Carrie L. Docherty, compared former collegiate athletes to non-athletes. It was found that former collegiate athletes exercise less, have higher body fat percentages, and perform at lower levels when doing push-ups, sit-to-stand repetitions, and running a mile. Highly competitive collegiate athletes work hard to reach a professional level, but without the stimulus of a coach, scheduled training sessions, and competitive events, many of them lose motivation and focus. It can be very painful when something you once
enjoyed or loved is taken away. You often tend to lose yourself. Which brings me to my next point, athletic identity.
High school and college are totally different. From my experience, you tend to have a broader fan base in high school. You are in your hometown and everyone knows and loves you. Your athletic ability often defines you. But, what happens to your identity when you don't make it professionally? What happens to your identity if you get injured?
In an article by Trisha M. Karr, she talks about “exercise identity” and the healthy and unhealthy outcomes. It was shown that having an “exercise identity” was positively associated with healthy outcomes, like engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity, having lower body dissatisfaction, and a lower BMI. Without the exercise identity that comes from being a former athlete, you spend less time engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity, you tend to have a higher body dissatisfaction, and a higher BMI.
Having a high body dissatisfaction may lead to weight gain, and/or eating disorders, because you’re always chasing the body you had when you were competing in your sport. Articles by Erin Reifsteck and other authors talk about
identity theory for athletes. Identity theory can be defined as “the meaning one attributes to oneself in a role” (Burke & Reitzes, 1981). Athletic identity is a specific type of identity defined as the extent to which one identifies with the athletic role (Brewer, Van Realtek, and Linder, 1993). Athletic identity is usually rooted specifically in a competitive sport. As I furthered my research, I also found that athletic identity is linked to problematic issues such as early retirement, emotional difficulties and it has even been found that former athletes have a hard time transitioning into a full time career job. (Reifsteck, Gill & Brooks, 2013).
In conclusion, being a former collegiate athlete has ups and downs, but most people are able to overcome the negative effects they may face. Losing your identity as an athlete can be hard mentally and may be a sensitive subject to discuss. I hope you understand a bit better now how vigorous physical activity, participation in sporting events and athletic identity really do affect the mental and physical state of college athletes. Hopefully there can be more support systems in place to help former athletes successfully transition when their competitive season is at an end.
Brewer, B. W., Van Raalte, J. L., & Linder, D. E. (1993). Athletic Identity: Hercules’ Muscles or Achilles Heel? International Journal of Sport Psychology, 24, 237-254.
Burke, P. J., & Reitzes, D. C. (1981). The link between identity and role performance. Social Psychology Quarterly, 44(2), 83–92. https://doi.org/10.2307/3033704
Karr, T. M., Bauer, K. W., Graham, D. J., Larson, N. I., & Neumark Sztainer, D. R. (2014). Exercise identity: Healthy and unhealthy outcomes in a population-based study of young adults. Journal of Sport Behavior, 37(2).
Kerr ZY, Chandran A, DeFreese JD. Considerations for Present and Future Research on Former Athlete
Health and Well-being. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(5):e194222. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.4222
Reifsteck, E.J., Gill, D.L. & Brooks, D.L. (2013). The relationship between athletic identity and physical activity among former college athletes. Athletic Insight, 5 (3), 271-284.
Simon, Janet E., and Carrie L. Docherty. “The Impact of Previous Athletic Experience on Current Physical Fitness in Former Collegiate Athletes and Noncollegiate Athletes.” Sports Health, vol. 9, no. 5, Sept. 2017, pp. 462–468, doi:10.1177/1941738117705311.
Note from Nick:
Ayiana was an intern here at KAW last Fall, and this was a research project she completed as part of her internship. I found the information very enlightening and felt it needed to be shared. Ayiana is now hired on here post internship at KAW as one of our reception staff!
By guest blogger Tamara Mitchell, LMT, CMLDT
With all the systems in the human body the Lymphatic System often gets forgotten. Much like the latest computer IOS, the topic just goes...lymph.
The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body. The lymph system has two main roles: to drain excess tissue fluid and to fight infections. The system is made up of vessels which contains lymph nodes. A lymph node is a small bean shaped structure which contains large numbers of white blood cells, monitoring any signs of infection. These vessels prevent blockage in the body tissue by draining through the urinary system.
The lymphatic system's role within the body can be compared to the oil needed to run a car – they both need to be periodically filtered to keep the “body” running properly.
This process is done naturally by the body with regular muscle movement, breathing, proper hydration and diet. The process can be sped up with Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD), which uses gentle strokes to clear cellular debris through the vessels. Manual Lymph Drainage is a light pressure massage using rhythmic pulling over the lymph vessels that sit just below the skin. The goal of MLD is to increase lymph flow, as opposed to regular massage therapy, which is focused deeper on the muscles. Manual Lymph Drainage offers relief and benefits for many conditions including post injury edema and is a gentle, conservative approach that can be done fully clothed in 60-minute sessions.
All treatments of Manual Lymph Drainage should be discussed with your physician who will determine any contraindications that may be present or if treatment is right for you. If you are interested in Manual Lymph Drainage give our office a call and staff will direct you to a trained therapist.
By: Gust Blogger Kate Duffy
As I’m sure most of you are aware, there are many different forms of massage therapy, beyond the traditional Swedish relaxation massage. Craniosacral Therapy (CST) is one of the more recent modalities. It was developed by Dr. John E. Upledger, following extensive studies done between 1975 and 1983, and is now very popular.
Craniosacral Therapy is a gentle form of hands-on therapy done with a very lightweight touch. Using only the weight of a nickel, the therapist is able to locate and assist in the moving of blockages within the pattern and flow of the sacral fluid. The sacral fluid flows along the spinal column and around the brain. By focusing on the movement of this fluid, a trained therapist is able to release compression and help the body to regain homeostasis (stable equilibrium), which allows for recovery from a variety of trauma, including migraine headaches, chronic neck and back pain, and brain injuries.
With the increased concern of head injuries in contact sports, football in particular, interest in CST as an additional form of treatment for concussions has grown. By helping the fluid and fascia throughout the head and spinal column, many people have found a significant amount of relief from their symptoms, more so than from other more common forms of treatment.
If you are interested in giving CST a try call our office at 269-373-1000 and our friendly staff can direct you to a therapist who is trained in it!
For more information and video testimonials, go to Upledger.com
By Guest Blogger: Dr. Steve Antoniotti
You could say chiropractic is in our bones…pun intended. Antoniotti Chiropractic first opened its doors in 1964. We are the 3 rd generation to provide health and wellness care to southwest Michigan. Since the beginning, we have utilized both chiropractic adjustments along with therapeutic massage to deliver the highest level of care to our patients. On April 1, 2019, our office was blessed with the addition of Kalamazoo Athletic Wellness and we couldn’t be happier, after seeing only positive results over the last six months. We truly believe that massage therapy is the ideal complement to chiropractic care.
Improving range of motion (flexibility) and overall biomechanical function, increasing immune system adaptability, decreasing pain and inflammation, eliminating toxins, reducing stress and fatigue, along with enhancing circulation are just a few of the many benefits that are attributed to a combination of chiropractic and massage therapy. Anxiety, depression, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome, headaches, insomnia, soft and hard tissue injuries are a few of the many symptoms /conditions for which a combination of chiropractic care and massage therapy can provide immense relief and benefit.
You might be asking “How?” The simple answer boils down to the fact that chiropractors work with hard tissue (bones and joints) and massage therapists work with soft tissue (muscle, ligament, tendon, lymph, and circulation). The body is composed of over 200 bones and over 600 muscles. These biomechanical components do not work independently of each other; rather they are an integral network of movement & function, which need to communicate every second of every day. So chiropractic care and massage therapy work together, hand in hand, to provide optimum health for most people.
99.9% of our chiropractic patients are given the clinical recommendation to also utilize therapeutic massage, as the best treatment results are seen when both modalities are used. Having Kalamazoo Athletic Wellness on our team has only improved overall patient care and well-being. Having a team of both chiropractors and massage therapists available allows us to continually provide the best long-term results for people of all ages in our community.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to either of our offices with further questions and BE WELL!
By: Guest blogger Jeff Merrill LMT, BS
“Oh my hamstrings are so tight. I just need to stretch them out more.” Have you ever said this? If so, why do you think you need to stretch them out? The two purposes of the hamstring muscle group are to extend your leg back behind you and to bend your knee. So if you say they are tight, then you must be doing box jumps and/or jump
squats all day.
Wait, you aren't doing those things? Hmmm. Well then, maybe your hamstrings aren't really the issue. Let’s take a step back and look at what actually might be causing those hamstrings to be pulled tight.
1. Belly/Core Weakness
Consider the rotation of the pelvis. If the belly pushes the front of the pelvis down, what happens to the back part? It is going to pull upward. Where are the hamstrings attached? At the back portion of the pelvis. So as the front of the hips go down, the back gets pulled up and a stretch is applied to the hamstrings.
2. Hip Flexor Tightness
This is very similar to the belly weakness. As your hip flexors get too tight, they pull the front of your hips down and the back of your hips up. They also sometimes can rotate the hips into different planes: Right Forward/Left Back or Left Forward/Right Back. What this does is make one hamstring feel tighter than the other.
As the front of the hips get pulled down, the back gets pulled up, making the hamstrings feel stretched. And a stretched muscle (which is weaker) doesn't activate as well as a muscle at normal length. So when a muscle is weak, other muscles that do similar actions start compensating and assisting those movements. Enter the calves. You
have two calf muscles: one that crosses the knee and one that does not. The one that crosses the knee helps to flex or bend the knee, just like the hamstrings. So if the hamstrings are weak, the calf muscle picks up the slack. What can happen is that the calf muscle can inhibit the hamstring movement.
4. Other Reasons
There are a myriad of other reasons, so it is often difficult to pin down exactly what is the cause, but here are a few others:
Come see us and we can help you figure out exactly where your problem areas are and then help you start getting the flexibility back into your legs.
When I started my career in massage, I didn't exactly know where I was going to go with it. After several years of being in limbo, I finally decided that I wanted to work with athletes in the sports field. My dream goal is to someday work with an NFL team or at least with a specific NFL athlete. As I started down this path, I realized that much of the success that I was going to be seeing was going to be on the “amateur athlete” level. Being the head massage therapist for Western Michigan University’s football team has afforded me the opportunity to work with some NFL caliber athletes who have gone on to play in the NFL. I still have yet to have that breakout opportunity. But that's not to say that the athletes and teams I have been able to work with have not been wonderful in their own right.
The last three years I've traveled with Linda to the CrossFit Games in Madison, Wisconsin. Last year was a “Cinderella Year” as she captured bronze for her age group – not an easy feat. This year, Linda came in looking really strong and healthy. There were some rule changes for qualifying. In the past, CrossFit would take the Top 20 athletes in the world for the various age group divisions. This year they narrowed that down to the Top 10. We knew that was going to be a challenge from the start as Linda had qualified 16th last year when she won bronze. So she knew that she was going to have to work really hard just in the qualifying round to make sure she secured a spot in the games. Linda turned it on both in the CrossFit open and the online qualifying round to qualify fourth. Needless to say, we were both feeling cautiously optimistic about her overall chances at the games.
One of the challenges about CrossFit at a competitive level is that the athletes don't know exactly what they will be doing until they’re just about to do it. So, we arrive in Madison two days before competition is to begin, only to find out that Linda won’t be competing for three days. This delay really threw Linda off mentally, but we found ways to distract her. We went kayaking, she did a light workout on the day that she would have started and watched some of the individual competition. From a massage standpoint, I did not want to do any work on her until after she was performing. She'd received a full body session just a week before the competition and I'm not a fan of someone receiving body work within 48 hours of having to compete, unless it's to recover from a previous competitive level performance. So we waited.
Friday was her first day of competition. The first event started slow. Linda is famous for knowing how to pace herself. She finds her rhythm early and then goes with it to the end. Often this makes it look like she starts slow and falls behind, but then as the other athletes fade out during the workout, she consistently catches up and passes. This time the approach didn’t work so well. All the other women looked like they were shot out of a cannon. Linda quickly fell behind. She was only able to catch up to a few and she finished 7th. Afterwards, when I was working on her, she explained that she was just getting her nerves out. She is ever the optimist!
We get to the second event, which was a ruck. A ruck is a hike or a walk with a weighted backpack. For this event, CrossFit had the athletes start without a backpack, run 3 laps of a 1500m course, adding a backpack with 20 pounds after one lap and then adding another 10 pounds for the final lap. In years past, running has been Linda's downfall. However, she has been working very hard to improve her running. When the first lap finished, and the mob of runners came to pick up their backpacks, I lost track of her – I didn’t see her come in and get her backpack. I start to panic. “What if she rolled her ankle, what if she fell, what if she passed out? " All these scenarios were running through my mind as I frantically ran up the bleachers and looked out over the field where she was running. After a couple of agonizing minutes, I turned around and saw Linda re-enter the stadium wearing her backpack. She ended up finishing very well and tied for fourth place at the end of Day One.
Day Two came on Saturday. We knew she had two workouts during the day. The first event would require her to handstand walk 90 feet, use an Assault bike for 25 calories, and then do a 100 lb sandbag carry another 90 ft to the finish line. We knew she would be strong in this one because of her gymnastics background - she was a solid handstand walker. Her biggest concern was the weight of the sandbag. The way CrossFit requires you to hold the sandbag is in front of you, which often can compress your chest and limit your breathing capacity.
The event starts with the handstand walk. Linda cruises right through it to an early lead. As she starts on the Assault bike, we have no idea how many calories she's going through and are waiting for the judge to raise his hand, which signifies Linda only has five calories to go. Laurie Mascheshnick, who was the current first place overall woman and eventual gold winner, started the bike later than Linda but is a stronger overall athlete. I could tell by watching her pace on the bike that she was catching up to Linda. Within seconds of Linda's judge's hand going up, Laurie's judge's hand went up as well. Linda popped off the bike first, went over and picked up her 100 lb sandbag and began to carry it along the 30-ft course. She gets to the end of one side turns around starts walking the other direction and begins to pick up the pace. I could tell the weight of the bag was heavy and that she was struggling just trying to get it done. I had a moment of concern that she would drop the sandbag at the end of 60 ft to rest, but when she turned around at the end of that 60 ft and started walking back for her final 30 ft, I freaked out! I knew she was going to rush to the end and get the win for this event. This was exciting as Linda had not had an individual event win in sometime.
One of the best parts about CrossFit is that while it is very competitive at the sport level, all the athletes respect and encourage each other as comrades. At the end of the event Linda and Laurie hugged, smiling at the excitement of the finish. This win boosted Linda up into second place where she would stay for the remainder of the games. Through her final four events Linda would not place less than 3rd, solidifying a Silver medal in the women’s 55-59 age group. This made her the only American woman to medal in her age group for the second year in a row. The Gold was given to Laurie from Canada and Bronze was awarded to Marion Valkenburg of the Netherlands.
The independent wellness professionals (like me) hang out in a separate area within the athlete village, where we work on our athletes. We are not in the same area as the sponsored sports med folks. Most athletes do not bring their own LMT, so since this was my third year, there were some familiar faces in the room. One thing I consistently see with the other therapists there is a wide variety of tools and toys they use for their athletes. This includes chiropractors and massage therapists alike. Some of the people at this event looked like they did both. I can remember the first year being there noticing this and feeling like I was under qualified to be there. I generally don't use a lot of fancy toys and my approach is very simple for a sports massage therapist. But this year I realized, what happens at the games is far more dependent on how ready the athlete is going in and my job is to simply keep Linda moving. So that's what I did, nothing fancy, just a little bit of cupping and Hypervolt. But mostly good old fashioned massage.
by guest blogger
Michael Padden, LMT, PTA
You’ve heard us say this a million times: “Be sure to drink plenty of water.” Summer is a critical time for this simple advice. Too many weekend warriors and seasoned athletes alike fail to maintain proper hydration during the summer months, leading to heat -related complications like heat cramps and even heat stroke in extreme cases. Exercising in the heat is a double whammy for your body’s ability to maintain a safe temperature. Rigorous exercise generates a lot of heat, which must be dissipated somehow. The main method the body uses to remove this excess heat is through sweat, especially in hot weather. If the body is unable to regulate its temperature effectively or when the balance of hydration and electrolytes is disturbed, exercise performance is impaired and if unchecked, can result in serious health risks.
It can be difficult to sufficiently replace the water loss from an activity during the activity or immediately after and as such it is particularly important for athletes who perform prolonged endurance activities or multiple intense activities throughout the day to monitor their hydration. Deficits in hydration from one activity can carry over and be further compromised by subsequent activities if steps are not taken to replace the lost fluids and electrolytes. The more dehydrated you become the higher the strain on the body and the greater the impact on exercise performance.
Recommendations for ensuring proper hydration for exercise include prehydration, drinking during exercise, and rehydration. To safely and effectively prehydrate, it is recommended that you slowly drink 0.075 - 0.1 oz per pound of body weight approximately 4 hours before activity. (that's about a cup of water per 100lbs.) Then, if 2 hours before activity, either you have not urinated or your urine is dark in color, drink another 0.05-0.075 oz per pound of body weight. (That's about another 5-7.5 ounces per 100lbs) This recommendation ensures that prehydration does not lead to over hydration, which can also have negative effect on exercise performance.
Drinking during activity can be the most vital for long duration exercise but exact recommendations are difficult due to the wide variability in water loss rates. It is recommended that you assess your own needs carefully, adjusting for your activity and the conditions. As a reference point though, typical marathon runners would likely need to consume approximately 16 - 32 oz per hour to replace their water losses on a warm day.
Remember to replace not only the water but also the electrolytes lost during activity, either by consuming a salty snack or by drinking a sports drink, which contains sufficient electrolytes, during your activity. If you were able to sufficiently maintain hydration throughout exercise, then normal meals and beverages may be enough to rehydrate following activity, but if you have built up a deficit, then rehydration will need to be proportionately more aggressive. It is important during this phase to ensure that sodium levels return to normal or the body will not be able to absorb the water it needs to replace the fluid losses. The best way to measure how much fluid needs to be replaced after activity is to weigh yourself before and again after the activity and then drink approximately 23 oz per pound lost, but do so gradually so as to maximize absorption.
Michael N. Sawka, FACSM (chair); Louise M. Burke, FACSM, E. Randy Eichner,
FACSM, Ronald J. Maughan, FACSM, Scott J. Montain, FACSM, Nina S. Stachenfeld,
Exercise and Fluid Replacement, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: February
2007 - Volume 39 - Issue 2 - p 377-390.
By Guest Blogger: Sarah Therkildsen
As summer quickly approaches, many of us are looking forward to the bright sun, sweet breezes, and some time for fun and relaxation. If you are like me, however, you may be realizing how full your calendar is already looking, and it is taking some of the summer breeze out of your sails. Besides the ongoing stresses of daily life, the weather often draws us outdoors, quickly increasing our physical exertion. The heat also can take its toll, causing swelling in joints and limbs. These are all great reasons to remember massage is our friend and a great way to continue self care. Let’s take a closer look at these four ways:
1. Increased Outdoor Recreation and Exercise
The advent of summer brings the joy of being outdoors again,. Our level of activity can ramp up rapidly, which can take its toll on our bodies. Even if you have been going to the gym this winter or attending a fitness class, chances are you are doing different activities and using different muscles this time of year. Whether you are running longer miles, mountain biking, golfing, swimming, playing disc golf, or even just kicking the ball around with your kids, these changes in activity can lead to muscle fatigue, aches, and strains. Massage helps reduce pain, increase flexibility, decrease our chances of injury, and helps keep our energy up during this active season.
2. Increased Yard Work and Outdoor Projects
Spring and summer for me always means at least a little bit of yard work. Weeding, pushing a lawn mower, carrying bags of mulch or loads of garden rocks, maintaining a pool along with other big outdoor projects we may tackle this season, cause stress on our bodies. Even weeding for only 15 minutes puts strain on my muscles despite using proper body mechanics, and I know my back and shoulders are especially vulnerable during the summer. Massage can help decrease inflammation and pain and help rid the body of toxins so we can stay active and recover more quickly.
3. Increased Swelling in Joints and Limbs
Along with the fun that warmer weather brings, it can also bring an increase in swelling in our limbs and joints. If you wear rings on your fingers, have you ever noticed a ring feeling tighter in the summer and almost slipping off in the winter? Even if the swelling is not visually noticeable, it often is still there as heat and humidity can lead to a static accumulation of fluid. Massage will improve circulation in the entire body, and lymphatic massage is designed to push fluids throughout the body, helping to improve circulation and rid the body of excessive fluid, thus decreasing swelling and discomfort.
4. Increased Stress
Besides the normal day to day activities that we have during the rest of the year, summer often brings an increase in social outings. Barbeques, beach trips, weddings, having the kids home from school, vacation planning, vacation, and recovering after vacation (am I right?) quickly add up and we can find ourselves busier than we anticipated. As fun as summer is, it is still important to carve out some time for that self care that Alicia talked about last month. Relax and de-stress. Massage can decrease anxiety and tension and increase our energy levels, helping us to keep up with all the fun of summer and truly be able to relax and enjoy it all.
by Guest Blogger Alicia Hileski, LMT
Stress kills (maybe not directly, but indirectly.) It's a fact that stress is incredibly damaging to the body. The body naturally releases adrenaline and cortisol to combat stress by going into the flight or fight mode. This is for survival. However, when we consistently and daily carry stress in our body, we start to develop health problems such as anxiety, depression, digestive issues, headaches, heart disease, sleeplessness, weight gain, memory impairment and more. It may eventually end in death! This is why self-care is so important.
If our body is always depleted and we are in constant stress mode, how can we expect to care for our loved ones at full capacity? Think of when you travel on an airplane and the flight attendants give the safety talk. They always tell passengers to " please put on your own oxygen mask first before attempting to help others." How can we be expected to help others be well if we are not well ourselves?
Taking time to care for yourself shouldn't be viewed as selfish. You are simply taking the time to reboot, recharge, refresh and become an even better version of yourself. Ideally, this healthy version of you will trickle down the human chain to others and maybe with a little bit of grace, will brighten someone else's day.
There are many different variations of self care, including massage therapy (or any form of therapy for that matter), going for a walk, reading a good book, being in good company, disconnecting from electronics and the constant hustle and bustle of life are just a few. Maybe you just really need a nap! Whatever suits your fancy and helps you relax (and that isn't harmful to you or others). We all react differently to stress, so we are all going to have different ways of unwinding and relaxing.
It may be tempting to stay up late to cram in those last household chores or answer emails, but really, the world won’t end if the laundry is dirty for another day, or if the dishes are piled up in the sink. Sleep deprivation causes irritability, poor cognition, impaired reflexes and response time (think car accidents!) and can contribute to depression and anxiety.
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:
Nicholas Garman, LMT NSCA-CPT
|Kalamazoo Athletic Wellness||
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