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What Is Neuromuscular Therapy?

Third in our series on massage & bodywork modalities

If you've ever been to your massage therapist complaining of pain, you've probably heard her talk about trigger points.

You've might even have wondered why she is working so deeply on one part of your body when the pain is somewhere else. You may also have been surprised when she pressed a "sore spot", and you felt the pain radiate to another part of your body or exclaimed that you didn't even know you hurt somewhere until she pressed on the spot.

Neuromuscular Therapy or Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy are both names used to describe a specific massage technique used to release taut bands of muscle or fascia that restrict the movement of the muscle and surrounding tissues and refer pain to other parts of the body, sometimes far from the site of the restricted muscle fibers.

The term "trigger point" was coined by Dr. Janet Travell. Travell and her partners David and Lois Simons are considered the foremost experts on myofascial pain from trigger points, and their two volume book is the bible of all massage and physical therapists who deal with this kind of pain. Indeed, studies based on Travell and Simons' work indicate that 75-95% of all myofascial pain is caused by active trigger points. (By the way, Dr. Travell was JFK's doctor and worked to relieve his chronic back pain.)

Trigger points form when a small section of muscle fiber within a muscle fails to relax and remains contracted. This contracted muscle fiber then has the effect of pulling the rest of the muscle and adjacent connective tissues much like a pick in a sweater pulls the entire sweater out of shape. For the massage therapist, this taut band of muscle can be felt, and it usually feels like a small, hard raisin in the muscle. The muscle around it may feel ropy or even wooden, depending on how long the trigger point has been there. Because of the tightness of the trigger point, the fibers don't get enough oxygen and nutrients causing ischemia.

Trigger points (TPs) can be active or latent. Active trigger points are the ones that refer pain along predictable routes (see photo above.) A latent trigger point is one that is not referring pain although the potential to do so is there if the TP becomes active. A latent TP is painful if pressed but not otherwise.

A trigger point in one location may cause a trigger point in another location to activate. The first is a "key" TP and the second is its "satellite". Treating the key TP will deactivate the satellite. However, not all TPs have satellites, and you may have more than one TP that causes pain although the most painful one may mask the less painful of the two until the first is released.

The referred pain pattern is what separates trigger points from other pain producers. For example, pain the the shoulder and arm may result from TPs in neck muscles just as the neck muscles often cause headache pain that may mistakenly attributed to the sinuses. Trigger points in the abdominals can cause the back to hurt, and knee pain is often originating from TPs in the hamstrings and quadriceps. (One has to wonder how many knee surgeries might be prevented if the trigger points were tackled first.)

Besides referred pain, active trigger points may cause muscle spasms and cramps, numbness or tingling, and even increased perspiration. Trigger points often mimic nerve-related (neuropathic) pain and can be misdiagnosed as such.

neuromuscular therapyNeuromuscular Therapy (NMT) is one way to release TPs and restore the body to health. By definition, Neuromuscular Therapy is the utilization of static pressure on specific myofascial points to relieve pain. When you receive NMT, the massage therapist will probably hold the TP for up to a minute or even longer and sometimes will sink deeper into the tissue as she does. This pressure releases the taut band of ischemic muscle fiber or fascia and allows oxygen and nutrients to return to it. This in turn balances the central nervous system and inhibits the pain response.

Most of the time, NMT is combined with other massage techniques such as deep tissue massage, myofascial release, thermal or cryo therapy, and muscle reeducation techniques. One reason for this is to prepare the muscle for the intensity of NMT. If you are seeing your therapist specifically for pain relief, you should plan for the possibility that the therapist will spend the whole hour working on the pain site. If you want a full body massage, you will probably need to schedule a longer session.

A therapist using NMT needs to work slowly. Going into a trigger point too quickly will cause the muscle to guard itself and may contribute to injury. It is important that you communicate with your therapist if she is using NMT and let her know when your pain level has gone past the edge of your tolerance. You may also need to return for a followup session, especially if you have been in pain for a long time or if you have a job that contributes to repetitive stress and keeps the trigger point active. If your therapist gives you "homework" for self-care, try to follow it as this reeducates the muscle and discourages the trigger point from reforming.

All three therapists at Body Balance II are trained in Neuromuscular Therapy, and unlike many practices, we do not charge more for NMT. If you are suffering from pain, tell Suzanne, Susan, or Laura. There is a good chance that Neuromuscular Therapy can help.

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Pillossage™ or Thermal Connective Tissue Release

We have a new modality at Body Balance II: Pillossage™.

pillossage
Body Balance II therapist Susan Smith receives
Pillossage™ at the Southern Spa and Salon
Conference from instructor and pain management
specialist Karen Kowal. Both Smith and
Suzanne Eller attended the class.

Pillossage™ is a form of Thermal Connective Tissue Release Therapy using heated pillows as tools to assist the therapist in giving the massage.

The heated pillows are filled with flax seed, buckwheat hulls, and other herbs. They can be heated in the microwave or cooled in the freezer and are the brainchild of Karen Kowal, RN, LMT, who taught the class attended by Suzanne Eller and Susan Smith in early November. Kowal works extensively with pain management physicians and healthcare providers.

The pillows use flax seeds because they move to conform to all contours of your body. These seeds provide a therapeutic weight that provides compression and acupressure over tender areas. The thermal effects and weight increase circulation and improve lymphatic efficiency. The trained therapists here at Body Balance II can use the Thermal Connective Tissue Release method to provide effective pain management and increased comfort to clients for whom traditional deep tissue methods are too painful. It's also a great precursor to therapies like NMT (see article above) and a safe alternative to the more expensive hot stones massage.

The massage is performed by using a wave-like motion with the pillow to "melt" the connective tissue and move the lymph. The heat is soothing, and there are various size pillows for different parts of the body.

We also have the pillows for sale. If you are interested in purchasing one of these high quality pillows, please visit Kowal's website, Mother Earth Pillows and read the testimonials and reviews. Then call us, and we'll place your order.

Please call Suzanne at 310-0161 or Susan at 320-6933 to schedule your Pillossage™ massage session!

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Beat the Sniffles with Sinus Massage

sinusesOnce the weather starts keeping us inside, folks get the sniffles. Sometimes these are caused by allergies, by the sudden temperature change from outside to inside, and by germs. Once the sinuses become irritated and inflamed, this is called sinusitis.

The four pairs of sinuses are air-filled spaces found in the bones of the head. (The most accessible of the sinuses are shown in the drawing above.) The fourth pair of sinuses, the sphenoid sinuses, are located deep in the head behind the nasal passages and above the throat. Infection in the sphenoid sinuses has sometimes caused death!

The sinuses are lined with mucous membrane, a thin, moist tissue which manufactures mucus and helps moisten the air you inhale. The sinuses also have microscopic hairs called cilia, which collect dust and germs and by using a wave-like action deposit the debris into the mucus to be either swallowed, coughed out of the throat or blown out of the nose.

When the mucous membranes become overworked, they get irritated and swollen and produce even more mucus. Almost everyone is familiar with the sore throat caused by "post-nasal drip" and with the stuffy-headed feeling that comes when the mucous membranes of the sinuses become blocked. This congestion can even cause ear problems, including problems with balance.

The pain of sinus congestion can be caused by one of two factors. Air, mucus, pus and other secretions trapped within a blocked sinus may cause pressure on the walls of the sinuses. Likewise, the blockage can create a vacuum within the sinus cavity. The result of either is intense pain, including headache pain and watery eyes.

If the sinus irritation and inflammation become too severe, a sinus infection may result. Then the sufferer will need to see a physician and get antibiotics, which have a whole range of side-effects. Prevention of sinus infections is a better course of action than relying on drugs after the fact.

Lymphatic Drainage with Sinus Massage is an effective way to prevent sinus infections. Lymph Drainage Massage is a feather-light manual treatment that literally moves the lymph and other excess fluids from the body's tissues. Lymph is vital to the immune response, and getting it moving helps the body expel foreign matter and organisms to prevent infection and reduce inflammation. Click here for more about Lymph Drainage.

A Sinus Massage lasts about an hour because the Lymph Drainage Therapy technique is slow and precise. The trained therapist will begin with precise movements to open the thoracic duct through which most of the lymph in your body must flow to empty the toxic debris from your body.

Then the therapist will move up your shoulder, neck and face and focus on the areas around your sinus cavities, gently pushing the lymph past blocks and back into the thoracic outlet with a light, wave-like pressure. She may also use aromatherapy or other modalities like cupping to loosen blockages and move them out of the sinuses. It is amazing how well the technique works to open the head and help you breathe again.

A sinus infection is a contraindication for sinus massage unless the infection has been responding to medical treatment in the form of antibiotics for at least three days. Colds and flu symptoms are viral and are also contraindications to massage anywhere on you body just as any fever is a contraindication.

Next month, some self-help tips for beating the sniffles.

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Essential Oil Blend of the Month: AWEO's Spirit of the Season

essential oil with cinnamon oranges spruce

 

Combining essential oils of spruce, orange and cinnamon bark, this delightful essential oil by Ancient Wisdom Essential Oils will lift your spirits this holiday season.

Spirit of the Season is a great oil for diffusing. It makes the house smell like Christmas. We use it at the office all year round in the electric diffuser in our restroom to keep it fresh smelling, but candle diffusers or lamp rings work well, too. Some people sprinkle the oil on the logs in their fireplaces as another way to diffuse the scent.

Spirit of the Season is antibacterial with wide-spectrum action against bacteria- 98% against pathogenic bacteria! It's antiviral, antifungal (particularly against candida), anti-parasitic, anti-carcinogenic, and antiseptic. This makes it a great blend to protect your family's immune system.

Individually, each of the oils has specific properties:

As mentioned before, diffusing Spirit of the Season is a great way to use it, or you might sprinkle it on pine cones or potpourri. Don't sniff it directly, as cinnamon bark especially can burn the nostrils if you put it directly on your nose. (Use caution when inhaling it from a diffuser, too, so that you don't get it directly in the nostrils.) If you use it on your skin, be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil as the neat oils can cause skin irritation. If you are pregnant, you should avoid direct contact. Also, do not directly apply essential oils to your pets. Citrus oils in particular are toxic to cats.

Using Spirit of the Season is a great oil to use during the holidays when stress is high and everyone seems a little congested. It also opens the heart and solar plexus chakras and helps us connect with others. This unique blend positively affects the emotions so that we more fully embody the qualities association with the "spirit of the season": generosity, peace, joy, love and gratitude.

Order Spirit of the Season directly from our storefront by clicking here and then clicking the "Shopping" tab, or call us and we'll order it for you. (828-315-9900)




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Dec. 2010

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In This Issue


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Old Fashioned Christmas Trivia

antique christmas card

Thanks to Brain Candy for these fun facts.

The name for the beverage "wassail" comes from the Old Norse "ves heill", meaning to be of good health. Christmas caroling began as an Old English custom called Wassailing- toasting neighbors to a long and healthy life.

The head of a pig prepared with mustard was the traditional Christmas dinner in early England, where eating mince pies at Christmas dates back to the 16th century. It is still believed that to eat a mince pie on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas will bring twelve happy months in the coming year.

Animal Crackers are not really crackers but cookies that were imported to the United States from England in the late 1800s. Barnum's circus-like boxes were designed with a string handle so that they could be hung on a Christmas tree.

Before settling on the name of Tiny Tim for his character in "A Christmas Carol," three other alliterative names were considered by Charles Dickens. They were Little Larry, Puny Pete, and Small Sam.

Candy canes began as straight white sticks of sugar candy used to decorated Christmas trees. A choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral decided have the ends bent to depict a shepherd's crook, and he gave them to the children to keep them quiet during the services. Candy canes acquired their red stripes in the twentieth century.

Christmas trees were popular in Germany as far back as the sixteenth century. In England, they became popular after Queen Victoria's German husband Albert made a tree part of the celebrations at Windsor Castle. In the United States, the earliest known mention of a Christmas tree is in the diary of a German who settled in Pennsylvania.

Christmas was once a moveable feast celebrated at many different times during the year. The choice of Dec. 25, was made in the fourth century by Pope Julius I, who wanted to replace the pagan rituals of Winter Solstice, or Return of the Sun with a Christian celebration.

Alabama was the first state to recognize Christmas as a legal holiday. This tradition began in 1836.

n 1907, Oklahoma became the last state to declare Christmas a legal holiday.

During the ancient twelve-day Christmas celebration, a "Yule log" was burned, and a piece of the Yule log would be kept to kindle the fire the following winter to ensure that the good luck carried on from year to year. The Yule log custom was handed down from the Druids.

Historians trace some of the current traditions surrounding FAther Christmas (Santa Claus) back to ancient Celtic roots. Father Christmas's elves are modernizations of the "Nature folk" of the Pagan religions; his reindeer are associated with the "Horned God," one of the Pagan deities.

Frankincense is a sweet-smelling gum resin derived from Boswellia trees which, at the time of Christ, grew in Arabia, India, and Ethiopia. Tradition says that frankincense was presented to the Christ child by Balthasar, from Ethiopia or Saba. The frankincense trade was at its height during the days of the Roman Empire when this resin was considered as valuable as gems or precious metals. The Romans burned frankincense on their altars and at cremations.

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spirit of the season essential oilAncient Wisdom Essential Oils
Spirit of the Season 15 ml: $15.00

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Copyright 2010
Suzanne H. Eller


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Greetings

wreath on post outdoors
Photo compliments of
Judy Greenhill
& Classic Properties

It is the Christian season of Advent, and although we all know we need to slow down and contemplate the beauty of the coming winter and the true meaning of the holiday season, it also means the commercial pre-Christmas rush has begun. Too often, we end the day mentally frazzled and physically worn-out.

We have so many obligations that real "down time" often seems impossible. However, we need to be reminded that if we don't take care of ourselves, we cannot really help and/or enjoy others. Treating yourself to a massage this month can be a way to slow down and recharge. We also have gift certificates so that you can share the gift of relaxation with those you love.

Both Suzanne and Susan attended the Southern Spa and Salon Conference last month and brought back two new modalities that might interest you. Sinus Massage with Lymph Drainage Therapy can shorten a bout of the sniffles and keep you on your feet this busy season. Pillossage® is a form of Thermal Connective Tissue Release Therapy that feels so good it is hard to believe it is therapeutic. We also have these special flaxseed pillows for sale if you need a stocking stuffer.

This issue of Warp & Weft includes articles on Sinus Massage and Pillossage® as well as an article on Neuromuscular Therapy, which works on trigger points and referred pain. You might also enjoy reading about our aromatherapy blend of the month, Spirit of the Season.

We hope you have a wonderful holiday full of love and laughter. We hope to see you during the month of December.

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Mother Earth Pillows®

mother earth pillows logo

Mother Earth Pillows® are made from the natural bounty of Mother Earth using natural grains, herbs, spices and fabric. No synthetics are used in these amazing pain-relievers. The manufacturers at Mother Earth Pillows® say that their product is created with love and joy and with your comfort in mind. Their staff salutes those who learn to listen to their body and take responsibility, along with their health-care givers, in their own personal state of health and well-being.

These products are now known and loved by individuals and professionals for their natural approach of relieving pain, tension and discomfort. All of the designs have many and varied therapeutic uses to empower folks to try the natural approach. Mother Earth Pillows® have become products of high quality and effectiveness and are recognized by those who desire natural solutions which can be used at any time and any place.

Please call 828-310-0161 to order Mother Earth Pillows. They make great gifts. We order about once per month.

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