Using Hot Stone Massage to Ease Tension this Fall

By: Sophia Bolos

Contributor: Kededra Patterson

It’s Autumn. The leaves are all brilliant shades of yellows, oranges and rich reds - not to mention a noticeably uncomfortable chill in the air. Reluctantly, we must admit that it is officially sweater weather. There’s no more denying that summer is stepping aside and autumn is making its graceful entrance. Some might say that winter is coming, but over here at KHLC, we say the season for Hot Stone Massage has arrived!

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The Basics

Hot Stone massage is a speciality massage where therapists use smooth heated stones, called basalt stones, to warm up tight muscles. Basalt stones are formed as lava cools after a volcanic eruption. They’re found in riverbeds and mainly comprised of silica and trace amounts of iron, making them great for heat retention. The heat from the stones enables therapists to give a deep, penetrating massage without putting excess stress on their clients bodies. While therapists often use anatomy to guide the placement of the stones, some therapists will also place stones on points thought to energetically balance the mind and body. Swedish massage techniques are typically used during the massage - meaning long strokes, kneading and rolling.

Benefits

A hot stone massage is always relaxing and comforting, the warmth from the smooth basalt stones soothes that bone-deep chill. However, a hot stone massage can help with the following:

  • Relieving anxiety

  • Easing Back Pain

  • Dealing with depression

  • Insomnia

  • Symptoms of autoimmune disease such as nausea, fatigue and chronic pain

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Anxiety

  • Migraines

What to expect….

Massage oil is applied to the skin and holding stones in both hands, the therapist uses gliding movements to move the stones along the muscles. Swedish massage techniques are used on the back, legs, neck and shoulders either while the stones are in place or after they are removed. After the therapist gets you to flip over onto your back, they will place the stones in the palms of your hands.

The length of a typical hot stone massage at KHLC is 60 or 90 minutes.

Who shouldn’t get a Hot Stone Massage

While Hot Stone massage is generally considered safe when performed by a trained and licensed massage therapist, it’s not the right treatment for everyone. Consult your doctor if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, varicose veins, autoimmune disease, decreased pain sensitivity, cancer, epilepsy or are on any medication that thins the blood. You should also consult your doctor if you have recently undergone a surgical procedure, have any recent wounds or areas of weakened or inflamed skin.

Pregnant women and children should avoid having a hot stone massage.

Always remember to stay hydrated before and after your massage!

Hot Stone massage has been around for centuries, but like many traditional therapies, it is still evolving. Whether you’re trying massage for the first time or are already hooked and interested in trying something new, talk with your massage therapist (and healthcare provider) about whether or not hot stone massage is right for you!

Changes to the Price of Your Massage

By: Kededra Patterson

At King Liberty Health Centre, our intention is and has always been to strike a balance between maximizing the value we bring to our clients and sustaining the clinic’s momentum. These two drivers are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but the right pricing structure requires a complex, ever-changing calculation that’s derived from constant analysis of the two.

With these key factors in mind, we will be raising our prices in January 2019. This price increase will apply to all massage and osteopathic treatments, excluding Acupuncture and Chiropractic Care.

We appreciate your understanding during this transitional time! Please feel free to contact us via email at info@kinglibertyhealthcentre.com if you have any questions or concerns!

The benefits of staying hydrated!

By: Kededra Patterson

There are a lot of things that can keep you hydrated - why water?

Sports drinks are great for athletes because they replenish some of the sugar the muscles burned and some of the electrolytes or minerals that were released in sweat. However, for most people, sports drinks provide unnecessary (and sometime excessive) amounts of sugar and this can lead to weight gain and increased inflammation.

As humans, we have a sensitive system of physiological controls to maintain fluid levels in the body. This is mediated by the sensation of thirst. When the body is thirsty, you have already been triggered to respond from water deficiency. Some key signs that your body is dehydrated are headaches, dry skin, trouble concentrating, constipation, dizziness, fatigue and muscle cramps.

The lymphatic system is composed of 95% water and when it’s hydrated it is able to move freely and keep muscles feeling soft and spongy. This enables the body to keep its fluids balanced, remove toxins, fight off illness and most importantly, destroy any abnormal cells.

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Ready to drink more water?

…try adding fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice!

If you’re taking the plunge and deciding to drink more water, why not enhance the detoxification and hydration process by adding citrus! Mixing both a couple drops of essential oil and juice from the flesh gives you the added benefits of nutrients from the rind. Juice that comes from the flesh contains citric acid, a chelating agent that possess amazing restorative properties to help support the digestive system. Citrus essential oils, such as lemon, lime or grapefruit, are high in d-Limonene, a natural chemical constituent. This constituent, known as a terpene, helps support the function of the liver and kidneys, effectively maintaining overall digestive health and regularity. In essence, citrus juice and essential oil make the process of waste elimination run a lot more smoothly.


We hear a lot about toxins, but what exactly are they?

Anything that our body is unable to digest or get rid of, including natural, biological waste and bacteria from foods we haven’t been able to digest properly, can be considered a toxin. A toxin for one person might not be ‘toxic’ for another - in other words you might find it easy to process other foods while your friend might not!


So what is a 'muscle knot' and how on earth do I get rid of it?

BY SOPHIA BOLOS

As fascinating as it is, physiology can be a tough thing to wrap your head around; however, I've discovered that if we understand why we get knots, they become much easier to treat as we can visualize what's going on under the skin. Usually a client's interest piques after we discover a particularly painful knot, sometimes in a muscle they didn't even realize was sore. "So just what IS that super painful little nodule that is so inconveniently giving me my tension headache?"

So in my world, knots are called "myofascial trigger points," but we can shorten that term to TrP for short. There has been a bit of confusion in the medical community as to what exactly causes a TrP, but over the years a general consensus has been developed by researchers which I can help organize here. (If you're mainly interested in getting rid of your TrP, you can scroll to the tips listed after the explanation.)

We all know our nerves make our muscles move, but did you know that calcium plays a big role in that movement as well? Our nerves speak to our muscles through a structure called "motor end plates." This is where the electrical signal from the nerve is converted into a chemical message that your muscle understands.

There are several hypothesis as to what exactly happens at the motor end plate to cause the TrP. These theories get quite complex when we take into account the physiology of our bodies, so let's just keep this simple.

Usually, the electrical signal travels down the nerve and hits the motor end plate which sends a chemical message and as a result, through some very special channels, calcium is released into the muscle. Voila! You are now moving your muscle. When you don't want to move it any longer, the nerve stops sending the message. However, sometimes the muscle fiber is slightly damaged and the muscle has a hard time pumping the calcium back out itself and into the storage system around the fiber from which it was released. It is not a calcium deposit in the traditional sense: it's just a bit of extra calcium causing a very real muscle contraction on a very tiny scale.

Now, suddenly you have this super tight contraction in a muscle fiber that was totally uncalled for. Even though it's a small contraction, it can be very strong. This pulls on either side of the muscle fiber so you get a taut little band on either side of the very painful spot. Holy smokes, you now have a knot. You may notice some weakness in the affected muscle, some restricted range of movement, some tenderness, or outright pain around the TrP. But many of us are very tolerant people, and may not notice the weakness or even (surprisingly) the pain. Until I poke it.

TrPs can be "active" or "inactive." Have you ever felt very achy when you're sick with a cold or flu? Much of this ache can be attributed to inactive (latent) knots that are being woken up or activated by the cold. If they are active they are usually shooting (referring) pain all over the place. If they are in your shoulders, neck, head, or jaw you can get a tension headache. If you have one in your rotator cuff it can make your forearm hurt. There are even knots that can develop in your neck muscles that can make your ear ring, your eye water, or even give you a toothache! If the referral pain touches another knot it can activate it, or if it is chronic enough you can develop MORE knots within the referral pattern of the original knot.

The good news is these referral patterns are not at all random. They follow very specific routes through the body which are so consistent we have developed "Trigger Point Charts." Google it and you'll find a human outline with very colourful blotches on it. Quite pretty, really, if it wasn't so darn painful in real life. The darker areas are the most common referral patterns, the lighter areas a little less common. I have read much debate over why the referral follows these specific routes, but my understanding is that no one knows for certain. I once compared the most common back trigger points with common acupuncture points and discovered not only did most of them line up, but the referral pattern matches almost exactly the muscular indications of the acupuncture point. (Basically, the Chinese doctors have had these knots figured out for at least 2000 years - probably closer to 5000, if you don't include puncturing, but just pressing on the knots.)

So now we have the gist of why we get TrPs. Great. How do I get rid of them?

Well the longer you leave it, the more complicated, frustrating, painful, and expensive it can get. Your best bet is to start treating it immediately. You can either see a massage therapist OR you can start working on them yourself.

1. Make sure it's a knot, i.e., don't treat any little lumps and bumps that are sitting quite close to the surface of the skin. That's probably a harmless little cyst. Leave 'er alone unless it's painful or you have reason to be concerned - then of course you want your doctor to check it out. TrPs are usually tender to the touch, refer pain, or sometimes twitch when pressed, and usually crop up after a bout of physical inactivity followed by a burst of movement. If you're still unsure, you can cross reference your painful spot with a trigger point chart.

2. Heat (10 minutes or less). When a muscle has been very very tight for a long time, the circulation is a little interrupted. That means not only do you have a lack of fresh blood bringing nutrients and oxygen to the injury site, but the lymphatic system (the natural sewage drainage of the body) has a really hard time getting in there and cleaning out the waste products of the living tissue. It sounds weird but it makes sense when you think about it: those little cells are alive and really need their nutrients to repair. When you heat a muscle, not only do you relax the knot a bit, but you flood the area with fresh blood. This is going to greatly reduce your healing time. (Don't have a heating pad? No problem! Dampen a hand towel and microwave for 2 minutes. Shake out excess steam and use your new, cheap-o heating towel. Re-nuke only after it has cooled completely and beware of steam burns. Never fall asleep with a heating pad or leave it on for longer than 10 minutes. Not sure if you can use heat safely? If your doctor has said "No hot showers or baths" then check with them before, and never use a heating pad directly over your heart.)

3. Pressure. TrPs really like pressure. Once you get used to the sensation, most people describe it as a "sweet pain." You can use your hand for reachable knots, a tennis ball on the wall for the hard to get knots between the shoulder blades, or exchange 10 minutes massages with your partner or a friend. If you've had a bad knot for a long time, a professional massage can help get you back to a place where you can perform maintenance at home. The longer you leave it in there, the harder it will be to get it out. The more frequently you push on it, the quicker it will release.

4. Stretching. Give it a little stretch after to help lengthen all those contracted fibers, encourage circulation, and re-train your muscle to move in its proper range. Always stop a stretch before it gets painful, and don't 'bounce' a stretch.

5. Hydration. Wooow do those knots ever refer if you're dehydrated! Tension headaches are particularly notorious for being sensitive to hydration. Drink water through the course of the day, or you may end up eliminating a lot of that water through your urine. (How do you know if you're dehydrated? Very dark yellow urine is a good indicator, unless you are on B vitamin supplements in which case it's normal.)

6. Consistency. Have you heard of "muscle memory"? The more you release a knot, the easier it gets. It doesn't really matter if you're an Olympic athlete or a couch potato, you're going to end up with a few knots here and there. But they don't have to be super painful or difficult to treat, and they certainly don't have to be chronic. Keep at it, they really do heal!

7. Acupuncture. So you've tried everything, and that stubborn knot still refuses to release. Or maybe you just can't take the manual pressure of a massage in your sensitive upper trap muscles ("What is this 'sweet pain' you speak of?") Although it seems counter-intuitive, acupuncture is actually a lot less painful than getting a really bad knot released by hand. (Think of it this way: with a massage, the knot and all the surrounding muscle tissue is compressed, often, over and over. With acupuncture, a thin needle the width of a cat whisker and has a rounded tip is gently inserted between your cells. Your body is mostly water, so the rounded tip of the needle actually avoids puncturing blood vessels and nerves. This is why most acupuncture points don't bleed! If needles freak you out a bit, then you have to consider the alternative - live with the headache, or endure what would be at most a slight pinch, some pressure, and then relief.)

Ok that was a lot, I know. Well done sticking it out until the end! But the next time you get that irritating muscle pain that most of us are so familiar with, you will have a little more know-how, and hopefully a bit more confidence in dealing with it. I hope I have given you at least a little of your power back, because treating this extremely common problem doesn't have to be expensive or time consuming. If you have specific muscle issues and would like a little more info, feel free to come in to the clinic here in Toronto's Liberty Village and we'll do our best to help you achieve your goals in health. Good luck and take care!