NiaMassage

Musings from the Massage Chair & Table

This is NOT what Sheryl Sandberg meant by “Leaning In”

With so many young people using cell phones, texting has exploded with expanded data features, and addictive interaction on social media. With prolonged use of cellphones, tablets and laptops, many chiropractors and massage therapists are treating ‘Text Neck’, or leaning into the screen.

Before this happens to you, these are tips that you can do to help deal with it –

  1. Dial the font size up on your screen. Whether you use your tablet, laptop or cellphone most often, sometimes the font size will cause you to squint or lean in to the screen. This isn’t what Sheryl Sandberg meant by the term. On your computer, Hold down CTRL + the dial on your mouse, and dial to your preferred size of font. On the tablet/smartphone (Apple), go to General > Accessibility > Larger Text > Drag Slider Right. Check your Android phone or tablet in the settings area, for similar prompts.
  2. Take time to look away and focus. Leaning into the screen also affects your eyesight, akin to moving to movie projector closer to the screen. It also puts a ton of pressure on your neck, as it’s holding up your head in a position that it was not really designed for it to be. For every inch you lean into the screen it adds 10 pounds of weight to your head and neck. Take a few minutes to look away from your screen, and focus on a faraway object.
  3. Look up. When you lean in to your screen for a prolonged time, it is about the
    Take a few moments to look away from the screen.

    Take a few moments to look away from the screen.

    same as repeating the same action over and over. This contributes to headaches and stiff necks. Allow your head to loll back, and lower your shoulders. Don’t worry; your head won’t fall off, even though it just may feel like it. Close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Definitely do this several times a day – It gives your neck and eyes a break.

  4. Use the dictation feature. One of the great things you probably never use on your phone is the dictation feature. As often as I am live tweeting (#Gladiator4Life), I have learned that dictation helps to keep up with the program, and keeps you from looking down SO often. I use the mic, and clip it in my ear. Just make sure that you proofread what it is writing, on your behalf. (Dang autocorrect!) Once the software gets used to your style, it tends to make corrections on its own.
  5. PUT THE PHONE DOWN – I get it – when I was in junior high (mumblemumble) years ago, I had classes with my best friend on EARTH all day for a year. I LOVED it; School was a daily hangout all day long. Then, we’d get home, and then get on the phone for hours. We even watched Jeopardy over the phone. This was back in the day when even the house line had a minutes plan. I truly understand what it means to just want to share every single thought with your friends all the time. But at some point, you just have to put the phone down. It’s hard to disengage at first, but actually talking in person does have its’ perks.
  6. Get a massage – Of course getting the muscles to relax increases flexibility, range of motion
    Prolonged texting with your neck craned forward without taking a break can cause a myriad of problems.

    Prolonged texting with your neck craned forward without taking a break can cause a myriad of problems.

    in your neck and relieves headaches. Prolonged texting with your neck craned forward without taking a break can cause pinched nerves, arthritis, and over time, disc degeneration. You are far too young to have to deal with that. Get a massage, or maybe an adjustment, if the problem cannot be solved with just the massage. These treatments are a great compliment to each other.

Note – This blog post is dedicated to Michele McDonald, who gave me the inspiration to write this post. If you have any questions about massage, please feel free to ask away!

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Are your feet holding your whole body hostage?

I walked a 5K this past weekend for the American Cancer Society in Atlanta. Now normally, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but I’ve had breathing issues most of this year, so walking even at a brisk pace was a challenge.

I walked it, in better time than I had the last time (I came in with the truck that picked up the cones at my last 5K). I was so happy that I went shopping to treat myself for a job well done, and was out for hours.

When I got home, hours later, I was tired, but wasn’t as tired as I had been in the past walks. My feet felt fine, but apparently were beginning to throw a serious hissy fit. As I slept, my feet held a meeting with the muscles in my calves.

If you've been on your feet for most of the day, and you haven't taken care of them, be prepared to be taken hostage by them.

If you’ve been on your feet for most of the day, and you haven’t taken care of them, be prepared to be taken hostage by them.

They regaled my calves with stories of abuse and mistreatment, and after all the stories, the calves believed my feet! In solidarity with my feet, my calves began to twitch, ever so slightly, my brain didn’t even notice. My feet were really upset that the brain still didn’t tell me to get up, that they gave an ultimatum – move that leg one more time, and SEE what happens next!

Again, as far as the brain was concerned, it was off the clock. ‘Time for maintenance, please come back later,’ the message replied. As I fell back to sleep, my legs shifted into a more comfortable position, and the feet seized the opportunity to wake me up.

The foot began to curl, as the calf muscles contracted. Just before it fully seized up, I bolted out of bed, and almost stood up on my foot, like I used to when I would get a Charlie horse. Once I calmed down, I took deep breaths, massaged the muscles, and got in that knot before any of the other muscles tried to gang up on me.

Now, as a massage therapist, I should know better. Yes, I see you shaking your head as you read the post. Everyone has a slip now and again.

Here’s how you can do better than I did. If you don’t take care of your feet, no matter how long your to-do list is, your feet will take your whole body hostage.

– After doing an activity, such as a 5K or a run, have a banana. The magnesium in the banana will help feed the muscles the nutrients they need to regulate and repair. Don’t like bananas? Here is a link of magnesium rich foods.

– A cool water bottle rolled under foot will help soothe sore soles. A golf ball will help address knots, but don’t press so hard, the cramp in your foot may just get worse. Apply pressure to your level of comfort only.

– Self massage always helps when you just want to take care of that knot that’s been bothering you. Again, digging into a knot may not be the best idea; bruises look cute on noone.

– Warm ups before and gentle stretching afterwards helps the muscles prepare for and recover from an activity. This is a hotly contested idea, and opinions vary widely. I’d rather let my muscles know that they’re getting ready to work, than to cramp up in the middle of an activity. Check out the last post – Leg Cramps – for some great stretches that you can do for your legs.

– A pre-event massage helps warm the muscles up and prepare them for your upcoming activity, as a post-event massage will help the muscles calm down and recover. If your event has therapists on site, go and check them out. They are there to help you!

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5 Tips for Stress Relief at Work

You’re at work, and you’re feeling sore & stressed – that knot between your shoulder blades is trying to give you a headache, and that one co-worker that gets on your nerves is headed in your direction. What are you to do? Here are 5 quick tips –

1- Use a tennis ball – A great tool to soothe sore feet & massage unreachable knots. Check earlier posts to show you how!

2- Your favorite tea – Teas with low levels of caffeine helps reduce stress levels.  Using honey instead of sugar helps regulate your blood sugar and won’t contribute to a sugar crash. It also causes you to get up & make the tea. (Get the blood moving!)

David Lister using Tension Sheets (bubble wrap, painted red) to de-stress on UK's 'Red Dwarf'.

David Lister using Tension Sheets (bubble wrap, painted red) to de-stress on UK’s ‘Red Dwarf’.

3- A sheet of bubble wrap – or what the TV show ‘Red Dwarf’ calls a Tension Sheet. Popping the little bubbles whether one at a time, or all at once reduces stress level. I’ve even put a sheet down on a tiled floor & run an office chair over it. Yes, it looked silly, but I really felt a lot better when I ran out of bubbles to pop!

4- Aromatherapy – studies show using essential oils such as lavender and lemongrass reduces stress & increases calm.

5- Soothing music playlist– music soothes the savage beast, it can also reduce stress levels. I have a Silly Song playlist, so I can de-stress at the office or on the road. I even go as far as to give really silly ringtones to calls that can be stressful. That way when I hear them, it makes me laugh a little, taking the stress out of answering the phone.  Music that tends to have a faster beat in stressful situations, tend to drive up stress levels. (Besides, who listens to ‘Bodies’ to de-stress?) You wouldn’t have to listen to it all day; just a few minutes when you’re stressed goes a long way!

Seated Stretches

2 Great Stretches to help you throughout the day.

BONUS – A good Stretching routine- you’ve been sitting at your desk for a while, and you hadn’t stretched in a few hours, admit it.  Get your blood moving & loosen up those tight muscles!

Here are a few good ideas – what are YOURS? I’d love to know!

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Body Language, Body Language…

Body Language, Body Language...

You know it’s coming…it’s almost the end of the day, and you’re looking forward to getting out of the office, and someone comes up to you and asks,

“Can you stay late/ finish the project/ start a new project? OK, thanks!”

You tend to notice that that doesn’t usually happen first thing in the morning, right? People can tell when it’s the best time to ask you for things, because your body is telling them!

When you arrive in the morning, you tend to look alert, shoulders back, head up, eyes alert. People who want to stress you out aren’t coming to mess with you, because they know they can’t get away with it. You’re on to them, and they may get a ‘NO’ right off the bat.

As the day progresses, and you’ve been sitting at that desk all day. You’re tired, you haven’t been stretching, and you are ready to just go home. That’s when General Foolishness wants to strike! Your shoulders are rolled forward, head bowed in near defeat – you are just asking them to give you grief!

Take time throughout the day to stretch, and take a walk to get the blood moving! The stretching will improve your posture, and reduce tension.

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What Do You Do to De-stress?

You cannot avoid negative stress, just like you cannot avoid breathing. You can deal with it, abate it, ignore it, or increase it. Getting rest in the afternoon is great, but can disrupt your sleeping habits, if you sleep too long. Complaining about it, especially to people that cannot do anything to change the source of the stress, can abate it, transfer the stress to the person that you are complaining to, but it does not do much to change the source of the stress.

What do I do to reduce my stress levels?

  1. Laugh my butt off – Sometimes there is nothing funny about certain stresses in the immediate moment, but later on, there can be something funny about it. I had someone close to me die at age 104. She babysat my sister and me as children, our kids, and the neighborhood kids. She was a staple in the neighborhood, and she will be sorely missed. As I was relaying this message to a friend that knew the woman, she asked me how the woman died.

      “Really?!?” I replied, taking a page from Bill Engvall, “She wrecked her Harley at Bike Week. She was 104!!!” I burst out laughing, knowing that Ms. Pryor would have laughed too, upon hearing that.

Laughter releases all sorts of endorphins and helps increase immunities, and reduces other hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, a ‘fight or flight’ hormone, which can lead to adrenal fatigue. Having a good laugh also engages the core abdominal muscles and diaphragm, gives the heart a good workout, relaxes the shoulders, and increases the oxygen intake throughout the body. If you ever meet me, ask me what songs are on my Mp3 to help me de-stress.

2.   Exercise – Taking 20 minutes out to just get away, to take a walk, workout, yoga, tai chi, Wii, PS3 Kinect, just getting out there and MOVE helps gets the body to reduce stressors. Boxing on my Wii is my de-stressor of choice. I can work on my stress, and get some exercise done in the process. Personally, I hate to sweat, but the after effects of working out outweigh the not moving of it all. I get over it, and get going.

3. Finding different ways to say “No” – Someone’s always going to want your time. There are going to be times that you are going to want to scream “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO” at the top of your lungs, but you don’t. You can say, ”Let me get back to you”, or “Let me sleep on it”, etc., so that you can take a breath before you commit to something. Find several different ways to say no, and reply to the request accordingly.

4. Meditation – Taking a few minutes to clear your mind will help decrease stress levels and may give you a new perspective on the very thing that stressed you out in the first place. There are many ways that one can meditate, which is great, because one always cannot do Downward Facing Dog in your cubicle.

5. Massage – Massage releases muscles that have been overworked and taut due to stress, also releases endorphins, reduces anxiety and increases calm, but I’m sure you knew that already.

These are only a few ways that you can de-stress. What do you do to reduce your stress levels? Can’t wait to hear from you!

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Are You a Pain in the Neck?

You’ve been sitting at your desk, leaning into your computer screen, bent over your laptop, or hunched over your smartphone. After a bit, your neck feels a little stiff, your eyes feel a little out of focus. You begin to rub your neck, and wonder why you feel so tired.

Leaning forward into your screen for long periods of time, whether it is your laptop, desktop or phone stretches the muscles in your neck and increases the tension at the back of the head. The neck muscles and cervical spine are not designed to stay like that for LONG periods of time. The average head weighs between eight and ten pounds. For every inch you have your head out of normal resting posture, it adds approximately 10 pounds of weight AND tension to the BACK of your head! This weight and tension pulls against the eye muscles that connect to the back of the head, pulling on the retinal wall, and creates that out of focus feeling you tend to experience. This posture also contributes to rounded shoulders, fuzzy thinking, lack of concentration, lower back pain, among others.

OK, so what do you do about it? Retraining your muscles is a great way to help get your posture back to where it needs to be. Here’s a few great stretches most you already know how to do –

  • Tilt your head up towards the ceiling, and lower your shoulders. Then, bring your chin to your chest. This helps the muscles in your neck release and relaxes the tension in the shoulders.
  • Gently tilting your head from side to side, while extending the opposing hand towards the floor helps as well.
  • Pulling the arms back, squeezing the shoulder blades strengthens the muscles there to help give a stretch the pectoral muscles in the chest. This also helps increase the volume of oxygen in the lungs, clearing up that ‘2 o’clock fog’ you are probably experiencing.

    Seated Stretches

    2 Great Stretches to help you throughout the day.

  • Straighten arm over the head, bend at the elbow, your hand behind the head. Place other hand on bent elbow, gently pulling towards the ceiling. This stretches the backs of the arms, but also releases the tension in the tops of the shoulders.

‘Stretching at Your Home or Office’ by Bob Anderson is a great stretching resource. Here’s a great link for Desk Stretches that you can also use.

Other things to consider:

Look at your desk in your space, and see where you are in relation to

your screen. If you’re leaning into your screen, you can get a computer monitor arm to bring the screen closer, or you can always dial up the font size.

Monitor Arm

Monitor arms keeps you from leaning too far into your computer screen.

Wireless Keyboard and Mouse combos are great tools to use at your desk. You can still sit in a comfortable position, arms not be overstretched, or with your wrists feeling strained.

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