Massage for Computer AthletesMarch 2, 2015
There’s no doubt that technology has been a huge boon for many people. But, there are downsides to technology as well, particularly for those who work with devices such as computers and tablets every day. Repetitive use injuries and other conditions that lead to chronic pain are increasingly common and cause a variety of symptoms that can take a toll.
Read on to learn more about how massage therapy can help.
Common Workplace IssuesCarpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome are two issues that people in an office setting may face and, with these conditions, come a variety of symptoms that massage therapy can help relieve pain being but one. “Pain, fatigue, weakness, and stiffness in the affected areas are the most common symptoms of these injuries,” explains Deborah Kimmet, a massage therapist and educator from Missoula, Montana. “Numbness and tingling, as well as trigger point referrals, are also common.”
Related: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Proactive, Non-Surgical Approach | 2 Credit Hours
Along with overuse, Kimmet also sees poor posture being the cause of painful conditions affecting the neck, shoulders and back. “For example, a forward head posture can lead to neck pain as the person unconsciously reaches forward with the head to better see the screen,” she says. Additionally, improper posture can sometimes be the result of other conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome. “Sometimes, improper posture occurs because the body is trying to find a comfortable position,” Kimmet says.
How Massage Can HelpMassage therapy is proving beneficial in helping clients with chronic pain find relief—and some of these conditions are no different. “Massage therapy can help reduce postural imbalances, nerve entrapment, inflammation in the tissues, and trigger points and their referrals,” Kimmet says. “In addition, massage therapy can address the symptoms caused by nerve compression if the nerve compression is due to improper posture.”
For example, Kimmet sees massage therapy being beneficial for clients who may have a hemipelvis imbalance that might cause back discomfort and pain, or those whose forward head posture is contributing to neck and upper back pain. “A shortening of the anterior musculature in the abdomen and chest that causes back pain can also benefit from massage,” she adds, “as can shortened pronators of the forearms that might be causing forearm, wrist and hand pain.”
Before beginning a massage therapy session, however, you need to be sure you understand the mechanics of your client’s pain. “Assess postural imbalances to guide your treatment,” explains Kimmet. “Then, treat the tissues determined by the postural assessment and those specific to the overuse syndrome diagnosed by the client’s physician, for example.” In order for massage therapy to be effective, you need to understand what muscles are involved in any condition, cautions Kimmet.
When treating the soft tissue, Kimmet suggests starting by warming up the tissue with five minutes of heat and then doing some myofascial work and stripping the area with four or five long strokes. “Then, go somewhere else,” she says. “For example, move to the other arm. This reduces the sensitivity of the area and allows you to work even deeper into the tissues. I never try to get all of the work done in one area at one time. Moving around is less painful and gentler for the client.” If the area is extremely tender, Kimmet encourages massage therapists to go back and repeat the longer strokes. “You can end by doing specific trigger point work and movement education to add more release to the tissues,” she adds.
Kimmet is quick to remind massage therapists, however, that knowing when not to work on an area is just as important as knowing when massage therapy might help. “If the client has cubital tunnel syndrome or is postoperative for the condition, stay away from the elbow because you run the risk of irritating the nerve even more,” she says. “Instead, work on the postural alignment of the rest of the body everywhere but the elbow until most of the acute symptoms have abated.”
Additionally, remember that massage therapy is not going to cure the problem, even as the work helps relieve symptoms. “The crux of the issue is overuse,” Kimmet explains. “No matter what the massage therapist recommends or does, unless the client can find a different way to do what they are doing, the problem will return. Discussion with a client to help them find a way to do certain tasks can be helpful. As part of the session, I will include movements that help release and retrain the affected musculature. And, I teach the movements to the client so they can do them on their own, as well as a simple method of finding a comfortable sitting posture.”
What About You?Although the cause might be different, massage therapists are also at risk for some of these injuries. “The massage therapist makes a living by pushing and pulling the upper extremities,” Kimmet says. “So, we are susceptible to any overuse issues in the upper extremities, not to mention the back pain that can go along with them.”
Not unlike a client who needs to resolve the root of the issue by adjusting posture or making their work spaces more ergonomic, massage therapists need to be aware of how they are working. “Proper technique is key to avoiding injury,” Kimmet says. “I always recommend that massage therapists try to use their large muscles instead of their small muscles. Perform effleurage by shifting your body’s weight over your feet and rotating through the waist rather than simply pushing the arms from the shoulder or straightening the elbow.”
Additionally, pay attention to the alignment of your forearm, wrist, finger and hand. “We want them all to be in a straight line, so the structures are supporting each other,” Kimmet explains. “If not, the muscles will do that job and this will lead to muscular overuse.” Although Kimmet understands that using hand tools can take the stress and tension off the body, she advises caution. “You need to make sure that your body is in alignment when holding the tool,” she explains. “Tools that cause improper alignment or discomfort when being used are not helpful.”
Related: Healthy Hands: How to Properly Take Care of Forearms, Wrists & Hands | 2 Credit Hours
Today’s world is fast-paced, and technology is an integral part of many people’s lives. For your clients who work with computers, smartphones and tablets on a daily basis, however, overuse injuries can arise, disrupting both their personal and professional lives—and causing a lot of pain. But massage therapy can help, and knowing how to work with these conditions can give you ways to both reach out to new potential clients as well as provide yet another tool to current clients looking for help with pain.
Tablets and Laptops: What's the Issue?From smartphones to tablets to laptop computers, you can’t look anywhere today without seeing someone on one of these devices—sometimes more than one. Yet, as a massage therapist, you’ve probably also noticed some body mechanic and posture issues that, if not now, will eventually cause the user some pain.
“Narrow keyboards on laptops cause ulnar deviation and strain on the hands and wrists,” explains Deborah Kimmet, a massage therapist and educator in Missoula, Montana. “In addition, improperly carrying a laptop case can cause neck, shoulder and arm pain.”
How users are holding these devices can also cause problems, according to Kimmet, as to relieve strain in one area, you’re oftentimes adding stress to another. “To place the device’s screen at a good height to avoid neck strain can mean straining the arms as they elevate a tablet to eye level, for example, or reach to the keyboard,” she says. “However, lowering the device to protect the arms can compromise the neck through excessive neck flexion.”
Quick Tips for You and Your Clients1. Go wireless and go big. Particularly if you use a laptop, investing in a wireless mouse and keyboard can really help create a more ergonomic work environment. To help with potential neck problems, you might also consider purchasing a separate monitor, suggests Kimmet. Additionally, think about setting the display to show items and copy at a size that allows you to view things without having to crane your neck to look at the screen.
2. Ergonomic keyboard: These can be great tools to help decrease the risk of strain on the hands and wrist for people who have to work on a computer daily, though proper set up and use is key to success. “You need to make sure you’re properly fitted for the keyboard,” explains Deborah Kimmet, a massage therapist and educator from Missoula, Montana. “Most off-the-shelf ergonomic keyboards are not designed for small people, for example, and may cause some people to hold the elbows away from the body, creating a whole set of problems for the shoulders and neck.”
3. Get moving. For those clients who spend their working days on computers, consider suggesting some stretches or movement exercise they might do to help relieve the strain and tension they may be putting on their bodies. “I suggest movement education specific to the issue they’re having,” Kimmet explains. “In general, I will suggest three movements at most, as any more than that and the compliance rate drops.
74 massage therapy journal TRUE TALES
CASE STUDY SPOTLIGHT
Massage Therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorder
A mother with a three-year- old son with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a neurologi- cal condition that can make communication and social skills difficult, told massage therapist Dan Vidal about her son’s condition in the hopes of improving both his speech and anxiety levels.
THE PLAN. A few weeks before the start of the case study, Vidal met with his client’s mother multiple times to discuss
how one of her primary goals for her son was to improve
his sensory overload levels. “In speaking with the client’s mother about his health history, she revealed to me that he had been stuck in the birth canal with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck during delivery,” Vidal says. “This made me think that the client might have suffered a signif- icant distortion in the alignment for the cervical vertebrae, and possible occlusion of the vertebral blood vessels as a result.” Remembering what a fellow massage therapist had done with a similar case, Vidal decided to focus much of the massage work on the C1 and C2 vertebrae.
The client saw Vidal twice a week for five weeks, and sessions ranged from one to two hours in length. Periods of play were also incorporated into the sessions to help put the client at ease. “Usually treatment could only be implemented for one to two minutes at a time before the client would start to squirm,” Vidal recalls. “Many times treatment was implemented with the client sitting in my lap while his mother distracted him with an iPad.”
THE RESULTS. “The client’s progress was primarily mon- itored using the Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC)” Vidal says. “His ATEC scores improved by
20 percent immediately following the first treatment session.” This improvement continued through the five- week period, with the client’s ATEC scores jumping from a 20 percent improvement to a 22 percent improvement. In the weeks following treatment, the client’s mother reported that her son demonstrated increased levels of attentiveness, as well as an improvement in his ability
to form vowel-consonant combinations.
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT. Vidal encourages other massage therapists working with clients who have similar backgrounds to his to be patient and to also not force any- thing. “Take what the client gives you and focus your time and energy on building rapport. It will pay off,” Vidal says.
E X P E R T PROFILE
Daniel Vidal is a massage therapist at the St. John- Clark Pain Treatment Center in Clearwater, Florida, as well as at the Sarasota Pain Treatment Center in Sarasota. He was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Massage Therapy Foundation’s 2017 Student Case Report Contest for his “Massage and Atlanto-Occipital Mobilization to Improve Symptoms in a Boy
The client’s Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist scores showed a 22 percent improvement.
What Is Fibromyalgia Pain Syndrome?
By Leah Lyn Fitzgerald, Licensed Massage Therapist
Fibromyalgia pain syndrome affects the muscles, fascia (covering of the muscles), tendons (bands at the ends of muscles that connect muscles to bones) and connective tissues of the body. This condition can be painful and debilitating and is characterized by generalized muscle stiffness, soreness, muscle pain, joint pain, tender areas called trigger points, depression, extreme fatigue and sleeping difficulties. Fibromyalgia is not a life threatening illness in itself but does significantly decrease the quality of life of its sufferers. Pain interferes with the ability to perform everyday activities, emotional disturbances, like depression and anxiety can take its toll on personal relationships.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition which is characterized by widespread muscle and joint pain that is typically accompanied by fatigue and a variety of other symptoms. It is not a sign of a serious underlying condition and does not increase the risk of other illnesses, however, it can seriously affect the quality of life as the pain often interferes with the patient's abilities to perform everyday activities. Widespread and persisting pain can also cause sleep disturbances, while the frustration of managing the pain can affect the sufferer's mood, emotional state and relationship with other people which in turn can lead to depression. There are medications that can assist to relieve or cover up symptoms but these are not without side effects, some of which may also potentiate the problems already present. Antidepressants assist the person to cope with the symptoms as well as sleep better, but again have side effects. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, biofeedback, meditation, herbal medicine may help as well. Massage therapy is another alternative treatment that has been shown to be the most valuable modality to assist healing of muscles and connective tissues involved in this potentially debilitating condition.
All muscles of the body are enveloped by a thin, tough, and resilient tissue similar to cellophane wrap. Normally this covering is elastic and pliable but injuries, sedentary lifestyle, and physiological factors can cause this covering to constrict, stiffen and tighten up. The myofascia extends from the muscle belly all the way to the tendons where muscles attach to bones. When myofascia becomes restricted and tight it restricts muscle movement and decreases circulation, oxygen supply, nutrients, and electrolytes (important for muscle contraction and relaxation) availability to muscles. This can become very painful, causing restriction in movement and creating an abundance of muscle function problems and imbalances. All these symptoms will cause a person to limit and decrease physical activity which only makes the problem worse.
Restrictions caused by dysfunction in myofascia promote the formation of trigger points. The presence of trigger points in muscles refer pain to other areas of the muscle involved and other muscles nearby. These TPs (trigger points) are lacking in vital nutrients, oxygen and blood supply and may feel cooler that surrounding tissues. The presence of a TP will generally affect the muscle(s) function even more creating a cascade like effect. Simple explained, without proper intervention the problem worsens and pain and dysfunction becomes even worse, causing more pain and dysfunction. Dysfunction leads to more injuries as other muscles and joints try to compensate and take on extra work due to the lack of strength and muscle movement in the affected area. Joints become irritated, muscle fatigue occurs in compensating muscles increasing risk of injuries and possibly causing falls leading to fractures and other injuries.
Muscle Function is Diminished
Studies done on fibromyalgia reveal the presence of myofascial abnormalities, trigger point, as well as diminished muscle function due to nervous system and physiological abnormalities. Researchers have found that with fibromyalgia muscles seem to have an inability to "rest" and are always firing even during sleep. This doesn't allow muscles to relax and may cause small tears and injuries in the microscopic cells of the muscle due to constant activity. The muscles unable to rest and exchange wastes adequately cause an increase in the buildup of lactic acid and other substances. This is similar to what happens after intense exercise. In fact, persons with fibromyalgia require an increased recovery time after exercise due to this fact. Some literature suggest that trigger points should ideally be released before muscle activity such as stretching and workouts or the problems may become worse and affect other muscles and tissues.
Assess, Treat, Repeat!
A trained massage therapist, after performing a thorough exam including muscle function and range of motion, can develop a customized plan of care to assist in fibromyalgia pain syndrome. Initially the first visit should consist of a thorough consultation in order to treat the client safely and holistically. A thorough medical history as well as medication assessment should be performed to scan for side effects of current medications which may affect treatment choices. A consultation may be needed with the client's physician if medical conditions are present that may be contradictions to massage therapy. Present activity level should also be assessed in order to gain knowledge of clients current and past activity level as well as any repetitive movements that may be increasing the pain. Pain should be evaluated on a 1 to 10 scale and should be compared to previous level of function. A posture and gait analysis will also allow the massage therapist to pinpoint problem areas. Finally, a hands on assessment of myofascia, tender areas, skin temperature, and scan for trigger points should be performed. Length of sessions and modality choice should be approached according to individual client's pain level and tolerance to massage. If pain level is 6 or higher manual lymphatic drainage should be performed initial to decrease swelling in order to lessen the discomfort of treatment. Assure the client that in order to perform the treatment efficiently certain steps have to take. It is important to reassess the client's condition with each visit and be flexible in the overall treatment plan. The client needs to fully understand that if excess pain is being experienced after the session it is important to relate this the therapist so that treatment may be modified accordingly. Communication between the client and therapist will improve treatment outcome and assist to develop trust in the client therapist relationship.
What Can Massage Do?
The goal of massage for fibromyalgia pain syndrome is to decrease pain and in turn increase function and sense of well-being. If swelling and excess pain is present manual lymphatic drainage will increase circulation to the lymphatic system and optimize its function, thus allowing the therapist to perform treatment in a comfortable manner and not cause pain to the client. Next myofascial release will allow the therapist to access muscle layers which will then be massaged and assessed, starting with superficial layers and continuing with deeper layers as the patient's pain level diminishes and allows. All the while the therapist will also be locating TPs and treating those areas accordingly. Stretches will be suggested for the client to perform at home only after TPs are addressed and corrected. Magnesium Sulfate (Epson salt) soaks will be recommended between treatments to assist in relaxation of muscles. Due to diligent treatment and the general effects of massage, (an increase in serotonin and endorphins levels), eventually the client will report better sleep, experience less pain, function more efficiently, and feel better overall. The client and therapist will decide on a maintenance plan which will be perpetually adjusted according to client's symptoms.
Winning the Fight!
Too often persons with fibromyalgia pain syndrome my give up the fight, but help is out there and if action is taken, living with fibromyalgia does not have to be debilitating. Prior function and enjoyment of life can be restored and there is light at the end of the tunnel with proper treatment. I also want to mention here, that there are other symptoms that go along with fibromyalgia that were not discussed in this article, many of which are caused by the constant pain state and grief due to the decrease in function as well as psychological issues. Pain can be a debilitating factor, will effect thought processes as well as emotional well-being and create a strain on personal relationships. Economic problems relating to job performance issues may also add to the crisis. This suffering is not necessary and I advise anyone experiencing chronic pain of any type to seek assistance so that life can be enjoyable again. Even if your loved ones are diagnosed with fibromyalgia are chronic pain, remind them that there is help out there and there is hope. Find a massage therapist near you that will be patient and assist you with your journey to fight chronic pain and start living life again!
Massage is very beneficial in decreasing fibromyalgia symptoms: fatique, anxiety, depression, morning stiffness, insomnia, muscular pain, body aches. Try it for yourself call (318) 613-5190. Stop suffering Now!
Many who receive regular massage, notice that it has many great benefits that keep on giving even between massage sessions. An increase in mood and decreased pain occurs due to the increase in serotonin levels and feel good endorphin levels soar and remain elevated between weekly and monthly massage sessions.
Research has also proved that massage on a regular bases increases one’s immunity. That’s a great benefit for those of us who can’t afford to miss work or have families that need us 24/7.
Infants, children, adults of all ages can benefit from regular massage because the immune system is boosted by increasing circulation of lymph and disease fighting cells present in lymph nodes.
For those of us who feel “puffy” during certain times of the month, massage can assist with decreased swelling due to increase in circulation and venous return, which in turn allow the kidneys to rid the body of excess fluid.
Studies have also shown that regular massage can assist you to regulate health problems such as hypertension, along with following a dietary and/or medical regimen prescribed by your Health Care Provider.
There are many advantages of receiving regular massages, (too numerous to list all today) and you don’t necessarily need a full hour massage each time. A knowledgeable therapist can assist you in choosing what is BEST FOR YOU, according to your budget and busy schedule.
Watch out for April’s Newsletter and be sure to continue to read and learn about how regular massage sessions might benefit you and your loved ones.
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