Headaches

When we get a headache, or worse a Migraine, our life can sometimes stop.  We would do anything to help ease the pain, nausea, and other symptoms that go along with it. Well, I’m not saying that these ideas will help; I’m simply telling you what helped me. As always please refer to my “rules for stretching”. With this blog, I wanted to get out a little of the information I have. I will be updating this blog over time, as it seems that I learn more about headaches at every seminar I attend.

 

Headaches may feel like they are in your head, but most are actually on it, between your skull and skin. I confirm that my headache is here by giving my fascia (the connective tissue that holds your skin to your skull) either less or more room.  To give less room, I simply squeeze my head between my hands. I will sometimes give extra pressure with my fingertips, or move my hands in little circles. I make sure to press all over my cranium, including my face and the top of my neck. To give my fascia more room, I grab fistfuls of hair really close to my scalp. Sometimes just grabbing the hair is enough to cause my headache to react. Other times I need to pull and or twist. My headaches don’t always ease when I do these tests, sometimes they seem to spike. So I always go slow and easy. Occasionally, just doing this gets my headache to go away. And if my head no longer aches, I think that’s a good thing! J

 

If during those tests my headache reacts, but doesn’t ease, I move on to the trigger points (trPs). Most trPs for headaches, according to Travel and Simon, are in the neck and/or face. I test where the trP is by first stretching my neck; please refer to my neck stretches blog for ideas. If my headache reacts when my head is forward, I look for the trP directly below my skull near my spine. (sometimes the little bugger is lower along spine like the middle or bottom of the neck.) If my headache reacts when I twist my head, I work the trP on the sides of my neck near the tops of my shoulders. (Yours might not be in exactly the same location as mine, don’t be afraid to “look” around.) And if my headache reacts when my head is tipped back, I work the ropey muscles that frame my throat. (You might need to work behind them, or under your chin?) When I work my trP I try to stay relaxed and breathe. Sometimes I can barely touch the spot, sometimes I need to use more pressure. I know when I hit the right spot when my headache reacts or I feel pain where I am pressing. I also know that everything is connected, so sometimes even if the trP that is causing my headache is near my throat, working the other areas feels good and helps my headache as well.

 

If I didn’t find a trP that worked in my neck, I move to my face. I get a lot of headaches due to clenching my teeth. So pinching and pulling on my cheeks always hurts. Even now, as I write this blog, I pressed on my cheeks and felt a headache under the surface. In fact often pressing, pinching, and pulling on my cheeks eases the few sinus headaches I get. If my headache is caused by a trP in my face, it is in my cheeks; but maybe your trP isn’t. Perhaps you would need to work your chin, forehead, or eye sockets? Do not press directly on your eyeballs! I have found that trPs are tricky things. They can be difficult to find, to know how much pressure is needed, and whether I should be less aggressive (just press) or more aggressive (twist, rub, or wiggle). I just remember that as long as I can relax and breathe easily, I’m ok. It took a while, but I learned what “good pain” feels like and now I look forward to my massage therapist finding those spots and working them out.

 

I have found any of my headaches caused or triggered by stress have a muscular component that I can massage away, thus easing the headache. There are headaches I have tried to help in my clients that Swedish massage doesn’t seem to help at all. Those clients still like the Swedish massage, and it gives them a tiny bit of relief while they are on my table; but the relaxation just doesn’t seem to be enough. Lucky for me, and some of those clients, I have multiple modalities that I use. I will sometimes use CranioSacral Therapy, Fascia Release, Scar Tissue therapy, and/or a few others. Unfortunately these other modalities aren’t easily explained in a blog. There are also a few clients I have had in the past that didn’t get any long term relief from any of my techniques. Those clients I referred to a different massage therapist, counseling, and/or a doctor.

 

I truly like to use my Rule of 3: If any one technique doesn’t show positive results towards your goal within 3 sessions, then it isn’t the right technique. I have found a slight exception to that rule now. Scar Tissue Therapy effects are sometimes very subtle. I have found that most people have positive effects after as little as one session. However, because the work is very gentle, it’s just not as obvious.

Planter Fasciitis care

Have you ever felt all cozy in bed when you first wake up? Maybe you have a little tightness in your calves or feet, but no real pain? Even though you feel good and have many things to do that day, thus do need to get out of bed, you linger. Why? Because you know as soon as your feet touch the floor, they will hurt. Not the “ooo ooo ooo” hurt, but the “@#!*($ %)^~+?&” hurt. You walk like a duck, or frog, or anything to lessen the pain. After 5 – 10 minutes of sheer agony, it slowly ebbs away till you are walking almost normal again. You try to stay on your feet all day through the nearly tolerable pain that stays with you, knowing that as soon as you sit and rest, your feet will attack and you will have to start the morning frog walk all over again.

You have Planter Fasciitis. You have already gotten a diagnosis from a doctor. And you are trying ANYTHING.

This blog is a compilation of the things I have learned to date about this painful dysfunction.

Plantar Fasciitis is an inflammation of the connective tissue that surrounds the muscle and bone of your feet, holding your feet together under your skin. We have many layers of fascia in our feet, and you only need one to create a problem for you. The fascia is connected to our muscles, and it’s the natural pull of the muscles that squeeze healthy blood, oxygen, and other good stuff around the fascia. Fascia doesn’t have its own blood supply, there are no veins. So whenever you walk/run, stretch, or just massage your feet, you squeeze the good fluids around the fascia, thus nourishing them. When the tissue is inflamed, it thickens. When the tissue is too thick to allow the proper flow of fluid around itself, it gets inflamed. This cycle only gets worse until something stops it. The main cause I have found that starts the whole process is a trigger point in the back of the calf. Usually the trigger point is between 2 and 6 inches from the crease of the knee. The point could be more to one side than the other, or it could be very close to the center of the calf. When I find the point for the first time and press too hard on it, it usually takes away my breath. I instantly let go, and wait for the stars to clear, before I return (MUCH more gently) and massage it out. Since the inflamed fascia is connected to the muscles of your calves, when you have a knot in the muscle it pulls on the fascia. Pulling on the fascia tightens it and doesn’t allow for proper blood flow. Improper blood flow creates inflammation, and starts the cycle.

To stop the cycle of inflammation thickening the tissue causing more inflammation, I don’t touch my feet to the floor without tennis shoes. Not slippers or high heels, but tennis shoes. I tie my tennis shoes so that the laces are not over the top middle of my foot. They are laced once at the bottom and twice at the top, using the hole that is set back a little. Just like when we have tennis elbow and we put the brace snug around our forearm, tying your tennis shoes like this will create support at your ankle and heel while allowing a little extra space for the inflamed part of your foot.

Soaking my feet in an Epsom Salt bath helps too. I use at least a 1/2 cup of salt to a gallon of warm water. I like to use the plastic tub normally used to wash dishes in the kitchen sink. These tubs are usually wide and long enough for my feet to rest flat inside.

Rubbing my foot back and forth over a tennis ball hurts at the time, but feels better in the long run. The amount of pressure that should be used on the ball is determined by the amount of pain. DON’T WINCE!! Don’t press any harder on the ball than you can handle with even breathing.

I stretch my feet AND calves. Stretching the feet helps the flow of fluid through the tissues. Stretching my calves eases the trigger point that is “causing” the fasciitis. As with all my stretching suggestions, remember my stretching rules!

Stretches for the feet, that I like, are to pull, push, and twist on each foot as a whole:

      


as little pieces:

      


and on the skin alone:

   


Stretches I like for the calves are:

Putting my toes up on a step and lowering my heel.
Sitting on a firm chair and putting my heel to the outside. Then, pressing down on the heel with one hand and the knee with the other. This stretch works best if the stretching position is where your heel almost touches the floor, but not quite.
Switching the heel to the inside and pressing on the knee and ankle will stretch the other side of the calf. To intensify this stretch, place your heel in resting position farther out or in, making the stretching position of the heel higher off the ground.

Massaging the calves could also help. You can use a tennis ball, rolling pin, or a wooden spoon.

   

   

Basic rules for stretching and massage

Basic rules for stretching and massage:

1.) I AM NOT A DOCTOR! Nor a physical therapist, occupational therapist, physical trainer, or anything other than what I DO claim to be, a massage therapist and reflexologist. I do NOT diagnose illnesses, prescribe anything (including medicine), or in any way intend for my recommendations to be taken as instructions for what I think YOU should do. Please understand that anything I write in any blog is intended as my sharing what I have learned throughout my massage career. These are my experiences and lessons that I choose to share with you.

2.)Don’t stretch to the point of pain, only stretch till you feel the comfortable warming. Make sure you can breathe normally throughout the entire stretch.  If you are wincing, holding your breath, cringing, or any other pain signs, you could be doing damage. BACK OFF!  Just like when you overdo at exercising and wake up the next day sore, you can hurt yourself if you force the stretch farther than your muscles can go.

3.)Make sure that when you are stretching you either are sitting or laying down, at the very least have a safe way to sit on hand, just in case the stretch causes you to feel a little dizzy, or light-headed. Make sure you are in a place where if you fall you won’t get too hurt. (In other words, don’t ever stretch on the edge of a cliff!) I usually stretch while sitting or laying down, as then I don’t have to worry about falling at all. If you do feel a bit woozy, just take a breath and pause before driving or doing your housework.

4.)Stretch for the amount of time you feel comfortable with. It doesn’t have to be 5 minutes per stretch, just till the warm feeling stays with your muscle for a while afterwards. The best thing is to stretch often. So if you can do 1 or 2 of theses stretches at your desk at work, watching T.V. at home, or even when at a stand still in a traffic jam, DO IT. Throughout the day our bodies tighten up, so throughout the day we need to stretch them.

5.)When massaging your achy muscles, don’t press into them so hard that you wince or otherwise feel as though you need to limit your breathing. Using special massage tools can be helpful, but not necessary. Feel free to use whatever you have around the house. Kids toys often have fun angles and bumps, dog toys too. Door knobs, counter edges, wall corners, and bits of furniture are wonderful tools, as well. Don’t forget kitchen utensils! They often have the proper hard edges and small radii.

6.)Don’t think about stretching as “one more thing to do today”. Think about the fresh blood getting to the achy places, thus helping your body adjust to all that life throws your way. Look forward to the warm happy feeling your body gets when the blood flows easily throughout. Knotted muscles are like stepping on a garden hose. Nothing good happens when we step on a garden hose.

Live well, my friends,

Mary Schweiger

 

Shoulder stretches

Headaches, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Rotator Cuff Issues, Shoulder Blade Pain, and many more upper back/upper arm issues can be helped with these stretches.

As with any of my stretches, please note my 3 basic rules.

1. Don’t stretch to the point of PAIN. If you are wincing, holding your breath, cringing, or any other pain signs, you could be doing damage. BACK OFF!

2. Stretching can occasionally make you dizzy, so be sure you are somewhere where you won’t get hurt.

3. It doesn’t matter how long you hold each stretch, the best thing is to stretch often. So if you can do 1 or 2 of theses stretches at your desk at work, watching T.V. at home, or even when at a stand still in a traffic jam, DO IT. Throughout the day our bodies tighten up, so throughout the day we need to stretch them.

I like to start a grouping of stretches at one of an area then work to the opposite end. So these stretches start at the skull and work their way to the elbow.

Our necks move in all directions, and so we need to stretch them in all directions.Sitting down on a kitchen (or other hard) chair, use your working hand to pull your ear to your shoulder. You can hold the bottom of the chair with your stretching hand, so you don’t arch or lean your torso with the stretch.

 

 

Then do the “smell your armpit” stretch. Rotate your head so your nose is pulled towards the front of your shoulder. Try to put your nose as far into your armpit as you comfortably can.

 

 

 

Just rest your interlaced fingers on the back of your head, while you breathe and let gravity pull your chin to your chest. Don’t try to pull your head downwards, as that could lead to the spinal column in your neck getting injured, causing pinched nerves, dizziness, and other unpleasant things.

 

 


Pressing your fingertips around your collarbone will help release the muscles that curve your shoulders inward, giving us all that slumpy look. Make sure you press all around your collarbone though. Try to get your fingers underneath it as well.

 

 

Use your working hand to grab the skin over your Trapezious muscle (the place at the very top of your back) and squeeze. To intensify the stretch you can roll the skin over your fingertips.

 

 

 

 

 

Holding onto the doorknob of a closed door or other handle, keep your back straight and STEP forward. Don’t lean, arch, twist, or otherwise bend your spine. To intensify this stretch do a mini lunge. It works best if you think of pushing your tummy out as you step.

 

 

Stand in a doorway or next to an outside corner wall, and place your stretching forearm and hand against it. Then with your back straight, take one step forward

 

Elbow below your shoulder will stretch the higher parts of your shoulder.

 

 

 

 

 

Elbow even with your shoulder will stretch the middle.

 

 

 

 

 

Elbow above your shoulder will stretch the lower parts.

 

 

 

 

 

Using a chair or counter top, with your elbow straight, bend down onto one knee. You can support your torso by leaning onto your bent knee. Make sure your spine isn’t twisted or bent.

 

 

 

With your stretching hand behind your back, use your working hand to pull your elbow behind your head.

 

 

 

 

Press your finger into the center of your deltoid muscle, where the curve of the bone softens slightly. This point will probably be very tender, so be sure to not press TOO hard (i.e.  DON’T WINCE!)

 

 

 

Then press into the underside of your shoulder blade, at the edge of your armpit where the muscle gets firm. Be sure not to press into your armpit itself, as there are many lymph nodes that you could damage. Sometimes it helps to reach the right spot by pushing your stretching arm forward so that your shoulder blade pokes out a little. This space too, make sure you don’t wince.

 

 

Pinch the fleshy muscles in front of your shoulder, using your whole hand. To intensify this stretch it can help if you pull, push, twist, or otherwise get a little rough with yourself.  Resting your stretching arm on a table in front of you will aid the muscle tissue being worked to relax faster.

 

 

 

Use your working hand to “pinch” the skin all around your upper stretching arm.

 

Stretching the thigh

Most people know how to stretch out the front of the thigh or the back, but the in and outside of the thigh are often neglected.  So I want to write about those parts. Keeping them stretched can reduce the pains of sciatica, low back, knee, and many issues with the hips. So, first I must say:

1) Don’t stretch until you are wincing, cringing, holding your breath, or any other sign of over stretching. Just like when you overdo at exercising and wake up the next day sore, you can hurt yourself if you force the stretch farther than your muscles can go.

2) You don’t have to hold each stretch for 5 minutes, just fill the time you have available. It’s better to stretch often than long. So if you use the excuse that you don’t have the time to stretch everything, or “properly”, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to put precious time set aside special for stretching. Every once in while throughout your day, add a stretch. The more often you stretch, the better you will feel.

3) After you stretch, occasionally, you might feel a little light-headed. Make sure you are in a place where if you fall you won’t get too hurt. (In other words, don’t ever stretch on the edge of a cliff!) I usually stretch while sitting or laying down, as then I don’t have to worry about falling at all. If you do feel a bit woozy, just take a breath and pause before driving or doing your taxes.

Now for the stretches themselves

You can adjust your body position and thus adjust the intensity and area of the stretch. If you arch your back, so your belly is still at the edge of the bed but your lower shoulder is a foot or more away from the edge, it will change the location of the actual stretch.

Likewise, if you find just letting your leg rest fully off the edge of the bed is too intense, then keep your foot on the bed and just rest your knee off the edge.

Lay on your side at the very edge of a bed, couch, or table. Try to put your belly as close to the edge as you are comfortable with, if your belly hangs over a little, even better.

Next, and the order is important so you don't fall off, drop your shoulder to the bed.

Third, rest your top leg off the edge of the bed. Let gravity pull your leg down and you just concentrate on breathing and relaxing.

Another stretch

Stack a few books with a pillow on top on your bed or couch. Then lie on your side with the bottom knee on top of the stack, and the top leg resting off the side of the bed.

The intensity of the stretch will be determined by the height of the stack. And if you lie more on your belly or back will change the actual muscle fibers being stretched.

For the inside of your thighs

Sit on a hard chair (no couches or easy chair). Spread your knees as far as is comfortable. Rest your elbows on your knees. Keeping your back straight, press your knees farther apart.

 

Another stretch

Sit on the floor, or (if able to balance) a chair, with the bottom of your feet touching each other. With your back straight, press your elbows into your knees and lean forward.

To intensify the stretch pull up on your toes. Or to make the intensity less, straighten one leg in front of you and only stretch side at a time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can also add a twist to your waist and thus change the actual fibers being stretched.