Got opposite hip and shoulder pain? You may have dysfunction in your anterior oblique or posterior oblique sling! Our muscles and myofascial structures work together in slings or subsystems to create dynamic, rotational movement. We see these slings at work in movement patterns like walking, throwing a ball, swinging a tennis racket, and even crawling on the ground! Because the structures in these slings require cohesive effort, a weakness in one part of the sling could cause another part to overwork. The basic sling composition is:
Posterior oblique sling:
Opposite Latissimus Dorsi
Anterior oblique sling:
Behind every big, efficient, powerful joint movement is a set of muscles designed for power (phasic muscles) and a set of muscles designed for stabilization (postural muscles). The difference between these muscles lies in their muscles fibers. Postural muscles are composed of a higher percentage of red, slow-twitch fibers, which create slow, long-lasting contractions. While our phasic muscles are composed of a higher percentage of white, fast-twitch fibers, which create fast, powerful, short-lived contractions. You can’t have large movement without stabilization and still expect to move with efficiency and ease Methods like Pilates are built on strengthening stabilizing muscles in order to make larger movements more efficient and powerful.
It took me a while before I realized that multitasking isn’t productive and generally causes more harm than good. Like when I try to cook and talk on the phone at the same time... 😬 The serratus anterior is capable of multitasking. It is a muscle that spreads out across the rib cage in multiple directions and acts in multiple ways. Although it can stabilize the shoulder AND assist in chest breathing, doing these two things at once can overwork the muscle and cause pain around the shoulder and thoracic ribs. So when it comes to any movements that require shoulder stabilization (anything from throwing a ball to lifting your toddler into the car) breathe through your belly instead of higher up in your chest to allow the serratus to focus on shoulder stability.
*Fyi: I used a combo of neurokinetic therapy and myofascial techniques to isolate and relieve the overworking serratus muscles in the examples given.
One of the many reasons I love being a bodyworker...
It’s a competitive world out there with lots of pressure to become more productive, happier and wealthier—all while staying healthy and sane! I truly believe that we can achieve our most productive, happiest, and most successful selves when we are well-connected to our bodies and able to distinguish between the things that serve us and the things that drain us. I believe massage therapy is a profound way to connect to our bodies. It allows us to confront the physical manifestation of the stressors that do not serve us. If we can be honest about the impact stress can have on our bodies, then we can reframe our relationship to those stressors and continue to try to be our most productive, happy, and successful selves without waging war on our bodies.
The sacrum is a keystone in the body because of its relationship to both the lumbar spine and the pelvis. If the pelvis moves one way, the spine reacts. The problem here is that we need to keep our eyes and ears level to maintain equilibrium, so our body will contort however necessary to make that happen. In this way, a misaligned pelvis can cause our spine to make some pretty funky shapes. I like to massage on and around my sacrum as a way to stimulate ease and awareness through this important keystone bone!!
Flip flops *sigh*...they’re convenient, inexpensive and summer-y. It would be nice if they were great for your feet too! Flip flops are linked to many issues ranging from inefficient shock absorption to instability and over-pronation. They also mess with your natural gait pattern by interfering with the Windlass Mechanism. This mechanism refers to your metatarsophalangeal joint (1st knuckle of your big toe) extending to allow your plantar fascia to tighten in order to create a rigid lever for propulsion. By throwing off your feet as you walk, flip flops can throw off your full body—leading to a whole host of issues. So make sure you’re not going on any long, arduous walks or over-relying on those flip flops this summer!
Hiking downhill is always a little precarious for the knees. Not only are compression forces higher on the knee joint when moving downhill, but the patella (aka kneecap) can also be pulled laterally and medially furthering any chance of pain. Hiking poles are my favorite way to combat the high impact. :)
Don't tell the etiquette police, but I believe posture should be judged good/bad by the stress and imbalance it creates in the body. Case in point: sitting cross-legged. Lots of us have a favorite leg to cross, which means we probably have one side of the pelvis that hikes up and one side of the low back that's tightened (namely the quadratus lumborum muscle aka the "hip hiker"). Our bodies want to maintain equilibrium so in response to the hiked pelvis, we'll tilt our shoulders and upper spine the opposite way to make sure our eyes and ears stay level. So I guess sitting like a princess is both good etiquette and better for postural balance!
You know that feeling when your shoulders are up to your ears and you feel like you haven't actually taken a breath in an hour? It usually accompanies stress and anxiety. Shallow, chest breathing overtaxes muscles like the pectoralis minor, scalenes and serratus anterior and posterior as they work to elevate the ribs on inhalation. If you're guilty of this habit, try breathing into your belly and imagine your ribs expanding laterally, anteriorly/posteriorly and superiorly.
Who would've thought a muscle so close to the ground would be considered the "second heart"?! Our soleus muscles are so important for healthy venous blood return! Watch out though, because the soleus muscles can be underactive due to a sedentary lifestyle. They can also be overactive due to compensation patterns, as they can work extra hard to stabilize us in a standing position when other stabilizing muscles are inhibited. Keep those soleus muscles strong and healthy...your circulation will thank you!
Empowerment beyond the massage table...
As a bodyworker and teacher, I love helping to educate people about their bodies. I think our relationship to our bodies is vitally important to our mental health. This blog features a few tools, articles, and fun facts to help you empower your body :) -Emily