Unraveling Low Back Pain

This month we are spotlighting low back pain. Just about everyone has it at some point. You can blame it on poor posture, weak core muscles, sedentary lifestyle..whatever you want, but it doesn’t have to dominate your life. Today we will discuss how massage therapy and other modalities can help restore and support your low back for a pain-free life.

Anatomy and Muscles of the Low Back

The lower back is a complex and important part of the body. Forming the top of the pelvic girdle it supports and strengthens the upper torso, hips and legs. It is balanced by the core muscles in the front and often becomes tight and inflexible as a result of these core muscles being weak. Spanning from the last of the false ribs to the iliac crests, the low back is made up of several muscles:

  • Multifidus-small muscles along spine that strengthen and support vertebrae in order to reduce friction and joint degeneration
  • Erector Spinae Group– made up of iliocostalis, longissimus and spinalis, these muscles primarily work to extend the spine, but also have some rotational and  lateral flexion actions
  • Core Musclestransverse abdominus, internal and external abdominal obliques circle the low back and abdomen and these muscles are responsible for flexion and rotation of the spine and abdomen
  • Psoas-this muscle attaches the low back to the lower pelvis and is responsible for hip flexion
  • Quadratus Lumborum-this large muscle of the lower back is responsible for lateral flexion, extension of the spine and plays a role in respiration

Techniques for Addressing Low Back Pain

Your therapist may use one or more techniques along with traditional Swedish Massage to help you with low back pain. Often a series of session using these techniques will be needed to restore your low back to optimal functioning.

  • Myofascial Release: modality that uses sustained pressure to correct fascial imbalances within the body
  • Muscle Energy Technique: Muscle Energy Technique is a massage modality that uses the body’s own force to restore muscle length and fuction
  • Neuromuscular Therapy: Neuromuscular Therapy is a system of assessing and correcting imbalances in the body through lifestyle changes and myofascial trigger point work
  • Friction: by working on the origin and insertion of the muscles, your therapist can help to release and lengthen the muscles in the tight low back

Essential Oils for Low Back Pain

Essential oils applied to the skin with a carrier oil or added to an Epsom salt bath can be very effective for relieving low back pain. Below is a list of several oils that can help with back pain relief:

  • Lavender: general relaxation oil for muscles
  • Peppermint: anti-inflammatory and cooling relief for low back pain
  • Basil: stimulates blood flow and soothes spasms
  • Wintergreen: helps with muscle cramps and arthritis

Additional Resources for Low Back Pain

In addition to massage therapy, you may find relief in other complimentary medicine modalities.

  • Acupuncture: working with an acupuncturist  is a safe and effective way to relieve low back pain caused by muscle or nerve involvement
  • Chiropractic Care: through the process of adjustments, your chiropractor can help to realign the boney and ligamentous structures of the body to promote better posture
  • Osteopathic Medicine: Osteopaths use gentle manipulations to restore soft tissue and boney imbalances (be sure to ask if they do manipulations when making your appointment)
  • Nutrition: Weight and diet (inflammation) can play a role in low back pain
  • Yoga: poses such as Downward Facing Dog, Cat-Cow and Forward Bend are simple asanas to get your body moving and restore flexibility and function to your lower back

 

 

Detox 101

The process of detoxification does not have to be daunting or time consuming. In this post we will learn how to safely detoxify the body to improve your overall health and well being.

What is detoxification?

To begin, detoxification is the process of cleansing the body. You will work to cleanse the blood, lymph and skin systems within the body. This process should be gentle, as too much detoxification can release stored toxins too quickly and do more harm then good. It should also be a simple process that works to restore the body systems holistically. Quick fix diets and aggressive cleanses can deplete you and leave more building to do after the initial cleanse than is necessary.

When to Detox:

Many people find Spring as a good time to start a detox/cleanse. You may already be in cleaning mode preparing to shed Winter clutter and prepare for Summer. Why not extend that to your body, as well?

Detoxes can help to remedy:

  • Sluggishness
  • Poor circulation
  • Fatigue
  • Joint Pain
  • Allergic Responses
  • Bloating

Methods of Detoxification:

Diet:

  • Gentle Juice Cleanses- stick to 3 day juice cleanses that are made from organic, raw juices
  • Sugar Detox- removing simple carbohydrates (such as sugary treats, soda and other processed foods) and replacing them with complex carbohydrates, good fats and proteins can help the body process your food in more effective ways
  • Removing Additives and Artificial Ingredients- while many things in our food supply these days are “general regarded as safe” this is no way means they are the optimal option for one to consume
  • Whole Food Diet- less processed foods will be gentler on the digestive and elimination systems and keep you fuller longer
  • Drink More Water- this is an easy thing to add in. Rather than drinking large cups, try for 1/2 a cup every half hour. This will keep your body hydrated throughout the day.

Bath/Skin care:

  • Dry Brushing- used daily, dry brushing can help improve skin quality and circulation
  • Mineral Baths- adding mineral salts like himalayan and epsom salts to a bath can help pull toxins from the body and improve muscle function
  • Clay- kaolin and bentonite clays can be added to baths or used as masks to draw impurities out of the skin 
  • Switching to More Natural Products- many of the products you may be using each day contain harmful chemicals that are absorbed into the skin. Too find products that are healthier alternative please check out the Environmental Working Group’s database

Alternative Medicine:

  • Massage- manual therapies like Manual Lymph Drainage and stretching can help to flush toxins out of the body and encourage proper circulation
  • Acupuncture- your acupuncturist can help support detoxification through the use of needles and/or herbs
  • Yoga- the stretching and breathing techniques utilized in yoga can help to promote proper circulation and support and nourish the organs

It is helpful to start slow and keep in mind that the body may react less than favorable to a detox plan at first. This is completely normal as it gets accustom to a lessening of the toxic load. Give your plan at least a week (except for the juice cleanses, which should be limited to 3 days) before expecting results.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Seasonal Allergies

As we are exploring seasonal allergies this month, I sat down with Sarah Shupe of Acupuncture Alexandria LLC and asked her what Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can do to help you with your seasonal allergies.

(For full disclosure, I have been seeing Sarah for the purpose of treating seasonal allergies for the past few months. I will say that the treatments are gentle and relaxing and I am seeing real and lasting benefits. Despite this being a “bad” allergy season, my symptoms have been the mildest they have been since moving to the DC Metro area. I have been extremely pleased with my decision to add TCM into my self-care plan. I highly recommend seeing Sarah.)

1. Sarah, how can Chinese Medicine help treat seasonal allergies?

              According to Chinese medical theory, the symptoms and signs that indicate a Western diagnosis of allergies relate to imbalances in the meridian and Organ Systems of the body. These imbalances may stem from a variety of causes, including stress, poor diet, foods that don’t agree with your body, constitutional weakness, pollutants and environmental toxins. Over time, if imbalances remain within the body, they will affect the functions of the Organ Systems. Some of these Organ Systems are involved in the production of Wei Qi (pronounced “way chee”). According to the theories of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, it is important to have the correct quality and quantity of Wei Qi circulating around the body in order to stay healthy.

              Allergies, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), can be due to a variety of factors. Below are some of the more common TCM diagnoses that your acupuncturist may discover and treat.

  • Wei Qi deficiency
  • Spleen weakness
  • Kidney deficiency
  • Lung deficiency

              During the initial visit I will conduct a thorough exam, taking a complete health history. I will then develop a unique treatment plan that will address your specific concerns. The goals of the treatment plan will be to eliminate visible symptoms and signs, while addressing the root cause(s) and underlying imbalances affecting the quality and quantity of Wei Qi. Acupuncture treatments may be combined with herbs, dietary changes, massage (tuina), or exercise. These therapies accelerate the healing process in order to balance, build, and support the health and functioning of your body’s systems. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are a drug-free, safe, natural and effective way to eliminate hay fever, allergies or the common cold.

      2.  How often should one be treated for seasonal allergies with Chinese medicine?

                 I recommend people come for regular treatments during allergy season to maintain healthy Wei Qi. This may look like a once a week or twice a month treatment plan, depending on the needs and goals of the patient. Patients can schedule with me easily online. I have two offices: one in Burke, VA at The Wellness Center and one in Alexandria, VA at The Healing Tree.

      3. Is there any self-care you recommend to clients to help between treatments?

                  There are things the patient can do between sessions to prolong the benefit of the work that I do. I recommend that patients add moderate exercise and stretching into their daily work routine. This encourages them to maintain proper posture to keep qi flowing and optimal alignment to keep breathing passages open. I also recommend the following:

Seasonal allergy tips:

  1. Flush your nose with a Neti pot.
  2. Add spicy foods and omega-3’s to your diet.
  3. Keep your windows closed during allergy season to prevent dust and pollen from entering.
  4. Put on a dust mask when you are doing yard or house work.
  5. Do not hang your clothes out to dry in the sun, as they will gather dust, mold and pollen.
  6. Come in for an acupuncture tune-up.

April Promos at Heidi Ella Wellness and Massage

Stuffy nose, runny eyes, scratchy throat…allergy season is upon us. We know how much allergy symptoms can affect your life. For the month of April, Heidi Ella Wellness and Massage is offering a complimentary 15 minute allergy relief add-on to all massage sessions, 60 minutes and above. In this 15 minute add-on you will receive gentle massage techniques, aromatherapy with Breathe essential oil and lymph drainage designed to target the sinuses and provide relief to common allergy symptoms.

Breathe essential oil is a blend created by doTerra oils to help promote clear and soothe breathing passageways. Your therapist will use this blend to enhance your massage session for maximum sinus relief. Breathe is a blend of rich and vibrant lemon, peppermint, eucalyptus, thyme, melissa and cardamom oils. (All oils used during your session are available through order through Heidi Ella Wellness and Massage.)

To schedule, Book Online Now, or call 571-224-5393. Be sure to select your the 60 minute or longer appointment of your choice and then ‘Select Another Service’ and choose the 15 Min Sinus Relief Add On. Limit, once per customer.