Movement is Life
This spring, my wife and I had the great fortune to visit the homestead of my ancestors in Norway. It was an amazing experience to stand inside the little home that my grandmother was born in, then left at age 15 (by herself) to come to the USA. My cousins took Janet and I on two walks, both memorable in their difficulty. One was a stroll after dinner- a three mile hike through mountain trails. The other, a 7.5 mile hike that was a steep ascent, unlike anything I have ever experienced. On the way up, I was going to mention to my cousin that even though I can do 100 mile bike rides, this was a severe challenge. Speaking first, he told me that his father did this hike at age 85! (I didn't say anything more about my tired legs.)
Activity levels in Norway seem incredibly high and built into the culture. As a result, Norway is rated the healthiest country in the world. Yes, diet plays a role, but I think activity is the major player in their good health. In this newsletter, I'd like to explore massage therapy and movement from a couple different perspectives.
Massage Therapy: Making Comfortable Movement Possible
It is well known that for many conditions, controlled and graded movement is far better than total rest. When I first started practicing, bed rest was a common prescription for back pain. No informed health provider makes that recommendation now. The research data supports the idea that the more you move, the better.
It is however, hard to move when you hurt. If your therapist at BodyWork Associates can alleviate your discomfort to the point where movement is possible, very good results are likely. This is perhaps one of the greatest benefits of our targeted Precision Neuromuscular Therapy.
As someone deeply involved in the research, I have seen many studies that show that massage therapy is more effective when combined with other approaches as well- often those approaches are pain management and/or movement related.
We at BodyWork Associates are big proponents of the active recovery approach. If one of the UI athletes is injured, almost never is complete rest assigned by the trainers. These kids are back on the playing field in record time and it is not because they are playing hurt. Their activities are scaled back, but never completely ceased. Why?
One necessary component of healing is blood flow. Muscle contraction is natures way of increasing blood flow to an area. If your low back hurts and you spend days resting in bed, your blood flow to the low back is severely compromised. A simple activity like walking can jump start your recovery.
Try This Experiment
Place your hands on your back and start walking. Do you feel your back muscles contracting? They engage (at low levels) with every step you take. Step forward with your left foot and feel the muscles on the right side of your back contract. Putting weight on the right foot engages the left side of the back. Walking then is a great way to increase blood flow to the muscles of the spine.
Even more interesting is research into the pressure on the discs of your lower back. Intra-disc pressure goes down with increased walking speed. Conversely, the slower you walk, the greater the disc pressure in your lumbar spine. Pick up the speed and you will feel better.
Massage vs Ultrasound
On a side note, one very interesting recent research study showed that deep massage increased blood flow to the muscles and and increased tissue temperature greater than that produced by ultrasound!
During Your Session
It is highly likely that during your session, your BWA therapist will incorporate some stretches and movements. This concept is vital to success in the work. Treating a muscle alone isn't enough- it has to be shown that greater comfortable range is now possible. If not, the nervous system still constrains movement based on old information. It acts as though there is still a problem.
In fact, research shows that if you have a problem and you compensate, the compensatory movements stay even when the problem disappears. Our specific approach, Precision Neuromuscular Therapy, is like a software update for your nervous system.
After Your Session
We strongly encourage our clients to move after a session, especially if you have come in with something specific. When we interact with your muscles, it is highly likely that they are more pliable and you are more body-aware than before your session. Without strain, choose an activity that also is exploratory. If you are a golfer, go to the driving range and practice your short game. Take that ballroom dance lesson, that Tai Chi or yoga class. Join your spouse for a walk in the woods or around the neighborhood. You will feel better for having done so.
Sitting Too Long Can Kill You
There has been an abundance of evidence that our propensity to sit for long periods is devastating to our health. Since the average person is now sitting for 9-10 hours a day, our life has changed drastically from my grandparents who farmed the land. In a new study published this week in the Annals of Medicine, greater time sitting leads to a lesser life span. Read a nice summary of the research here.
Movement is Life!