Over the past few months, there has been a growing interest in a “new” yet ancient method of treatment that recently came to the public’s attention with the help of Michael Phelps. During the Olympics, we all watched as this thirty-one-year-old “dinosaur” in the pool was getting treatment between races and we all asked ourselves, “What in the world are they doing to that guy?!” Michael Phelps would take the block of every race looking like a son of Poseidon that had recently just battled with a giant octopus. So, what were those strange markings on his body and why would the best swimmer of All-Time be having it performed on him? If you continue, you will find those answers.
What is cupping?
The practice of “cupping” is an ancient Chinese technique that uses specialized plastic cups connected to a unique low suction vacuum system which placed on the skin in areas of inflammation. The vacuum causes blood to rush to the area. The new blood then gives way to the formation of new blood vessels, and in a sense, feeds the surrounding tissue with nutrients and oxygen. This reaction of the tissue and the blood vessels creates an environment within the issue that helps to maximize the body’s ability to rebuild and recover from injuries and stress.
The suction also causes the separation of different layers of the tissue causing temporary inflammation, which is the body’s first line of healing. Multiple cups placed in a particular area can also stretch the fascia or band of connective tissues surround the muscle. By separating these layers of tissues, the body can regain the full natural range of motion that was once restricted to the layers of skin and fascia.
How does it help?
Cupping helps aid the process of healing in the affected or damaged area of muscles by:
• Increasing circulation
• Increasing oxygen to tissues
• Encouraging the production of new blood vessels
• Stretching skin, fascia, muscles and connective tissue
• Causing micro trauma and beneficial inflammation
Does it hurt?
Depending on the patient, cupping can cause some temporary discomfort as the vacuum pulls the skin and blood into the muscle. Much of this discomfort goes away after the cup is removed. There will be varying degrees of marks left behind from pink to red or even black and blue, but these are rarely painful. Most patients feel progressively better after a few session and experience more permanent relief.
Cupping and Active Release Therapy (ART)
Cupping is helpful when used in conjunction with other treatments such as ART. The goal of both cupping and ART is to treat soft tissue injuries by improving the function of these tissues that are restricted by adhesions and scar tissue. By making sure that every layer of tissue and every structure is moving freely, the body can function optimally and recover quickly. Both techniques help to increase blood flow, break down fibrous tissue and reduce inflammation in muscles to restore normal function and movement.
Over the past couple of years, we have noticed an increasing rate of neck injuries and strains (especially in young people) directly related to the use of hand-held devices. We often refer to this developing condition of the neck and upper back as "text neck."
Text Neck occurs when people use mobile devices for a prolonged period of time. As an individual uses a smartphone, laptop or tablet for hours a day, they are typically looking down, with their neck flexed down and upper back arched forward. Their shoulders are rolled inwards or hunched over, and their chest pulled downward.
This "slouched" position increases the load placed on the neck, spine, shoulders and related muscles and soft tissues resulting in muscle strains, neck and back pain, and tension headaches.
Research has demonstrated that for every inch that the head shifts forward, it causes an increased load of 10 pounds in weight on our neck. That's a lot of weight!
The danger of this condition has many factors. As a person starts to lose their good posture, the muscles that are used for good posture start to become weak and can even shut down. This starts a cascade of events that leads to the head to continue to fall forward, the shoulders to roll in and the back to increase the thoracic curve giving the individual that hump in their upper back.
What many people don’t realize is that staying in this position for a prolonged time can cause the tissues on the front of the body to tighten up causing adhesions to develop which will limit a person’s ability to sit up straight and pull their shoulders back and down. The further the head and shoulders go forward, the greater a person becomes at risk for developing a condition called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. This is a condition where the neurovascular bundle that contains the nerves, arteries, and veins for the arm can become entrapped causing numbness, tingling, and pain radiating down the arm in to the hand. This condition is become much more common in younger individuals due to the use of mobile devices, but it can be easily reversed!
How Can I Prevent Text Neck?
Correcting your posture is the first step toward resolving text neck or forward head conditions. The head should be balanced effortlessly on the shoulders. Good posture – when the back is upright, and the shoulders pulled back – means that only a minimal effort is required to keep the head balanced upright. Some simple things that you can do to help prevent developing this condition are:
• Try not to sit in a static position for an extended period. Get up and walk around. Take frequent breaks and perform some stretches.
• Bring the technology up to your eye level rather than placing it in your lap. Sit with your head and back in a supported position using a chair or cushion.
• Limit texting to just a couple of minutes at a time.
How Can ART Help?
ART is very effective for both treating and preventing, Text Neck and other sprain/strain injuries to the neck and back. It is important to treat the tissues that have shortened and tightened so that normal function can be restored. During the evaluation, we:
• Determine the areas of tissue that are not lengthening or functioning properly.
• Identify abnormalities in tissue texture.
• Locate restrictions in movement and function.
• Release adhesions and restrictions that have formed through a series of "stretch and release" type movements.
Stretches for Text Neck
• Chin tuck. Don't tuck your chin down to your chest, but take your chin, and push it backward, moving your head back toward your shoulder blades. Hold it for about 3-5 seconds, and then relax. Do this about 3-5 times.
• Shoulder blade or scapula squeeze. Imagine that there is a ball in the middle of your back. Squeeze your shoulder blades back towards your spine and hold as if you are squeezing the ball, and then come back. Hold it for about 3-5 seconds; perform about 10 times to start.
• Chin tuck lying down. Roll up a towel and put it right in the curve of your neck on the ground. Push down towards the floor as if you are using your neck muscles to push the towel into the ground. Hold for about 3-5 seconds. Do this 3-5 times.
• Upper back stretch. Take a pillow, turn over onto your stomach, and put the pillow right at your stomach and chest area. Put your hands on your lower back. Keep your neck in a neutral position, and lift your upper body up off the floor. Hold it for about 1-2 seconds, and then come back down. Start with 10 times.
What is Kinesio Tape?
In the recent 2016 summer Olympics, you might remember the hype surrounding Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who was seen using cupping therapy to aid recovery. Back in 2012, at the London Olympics, the most noticeable accessory was brightly colored tape adorning the bodies of beach volleyball players in various stripes and patterns.
Kinesio Taping Method (KTM) is a therapeutic taping technique that offers patients and athletes the support they need to get through their daily activity or sports event while helping to rehabilitate conditions and injuries. KTM involves the application of a special nonrestrictive tape over muscles to reduce pain and inflammation, relax overused or tired muscles and support muscles in movement.
Invented by a Japanese chiropractor, Kinesio tape relieves discomfort by decreasing inflammation and reducing pressure in the target area, which allows for more effective blood flow. Kinesio taping is not only for athletes; it can be used to help anyone from pediatric to geriatric patients and to treat virtually any condition including:
Low back pain tops the list of the most common symptom reported by our patients. There are many reasons why people experience low back pain, but tight dysfunctional muscles that are tugging and pulling at the attachment sites around the joints or irritating nerves are often what are causing the injury.
Many people just put up with low-back pain but many people don’t realize that this can often be avoided with ART. Lower back pain can present itself in many different ways. The pain can feel achy, sharp, dull, shooting down to the knee, or even worse, pain shooting down to the feet and toes.
A number of factors can contribute to back pain:
Active Release Techniques is a Soft Tissue Technique the quickly and effectively allows a provider to diagnose and treat the Soft Tissues of the body such as muscles, tendons, ligament, fascia, and even nerves. Now if a person is suffering from structural damage such as a broken bone or a disc herniation, Active Release Techniques will not be the tool that the patient needs to get relief. If a person is experiencing pain as a result of damage to the Soft Tissue, ART is the preferred method of treatment to get relief fast.
When a person presents with low back pain we most often we begin by addressing the psoas (pronounced SO-as) muscles. The psoas muscles are the primary connectors between your torso at the bones and discs in your low back and your legs. They affect your posture and help to stabilize your spine.
The psoas muscles are made of both slow and fast twitching muscles. Because they are major flexors, weak psoas muscles can become tight and pull on their attachment sites in the bones and discs in the low back causing pain. This can also cause many of the surrounding muscles to compensate and become overused. Tight or overstretched psoas muscles are commonly the cause of low back and pelvic pain. When we get the psoas to "release" with Active Release Techniques, the pain often disappears.
Things you can do at home:
Anyone can get shin splints but they are most common among runners, hikers, dancers and those who enjoy hobbies that require a lot of strenuous leg activity.
The proper name for shin splints is medial tibial stress syndrome referring to pain or inflammation in the shinbone (tibia) or lower leg. This pain is a result of the stress that placed on the bone as a result of the stress from the muscles attached to the bone, in this case, the tibia. The bone has an outer layer of tissue called the periosteum. The muscles are anchored to the bone via the periosteum and when they become tight, they begin to pull the periosteum off the bone which causes the intense pain where they are attached. If not treated early, shin splints can become Stress Reactions or, in more severe cases, Stress Fractures.
The most common causes are:
Experts agree that Active Release Technique (A.R.T.) and/or Graston Technique are the best way to treat shin splints. During an exam, we will zero in on the structures that are truly injured and being over stressed. Once these areas are identified, we use ART to address the tension and adhesions in the muscles. Commonly with shin splints, we need to address the Tibialis Posterior muscles, which is a very strong and deep central muscle in the calf.
Using ART on the affected muscles we seek to break down fibrotic tissue using specific, strong contacts with an active motion to allow muscles to once again function normally, thus reducing or eliminating pain and inflammation.
As always, we show our patients methods of self-massage, strength exercises, and stretches that can assist in the healing process and reducing further pain and injury to the area.
Do you have chronic knee or hip pain? Do you feel a snapping or popping at the knee or hip? You may have Iliotibial band syndrome, ITBS, commonly known a runner’s knee.
What is the IT band?
The IT band is a thick band of connective tissue that attaches at the top of the hip or iliac crest and descends along the outside of the thigh down to the outside of the knee (see photo). Its primary function is to assist with stabilizing the hip and knee particularly during single leg activities like walking, running and stepping.
What types of symptoms are associated with the injury?
The IT band can develop scar tissue due to trauma associated with running and cycling. Eventually, it starts to adhere itself to the front of the thigh, hip flexors and hamstring muscle groups. The IT band is supposed to glide over these muscles but instead starts to pull and tug resulting in rips and tears.
We usually recommend the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) when you first injure your Iliotibial Band. This will help to reduce the inflammation caused by the injury.
When treating an IT band injury, we commonly combine two methods of Soft Tissue Therapy to get the best result in the shortest amount of time. We use Graston instruments to penetrate deep into the band. This increases the amount of blood supply to the thick-scarred area helping it to regain elasticity. We then combine with A.R.T, Active Release Technique, hands-on maneuvers to release adhesions between the muscles and tendons, allowing them to “glide” over the muscles instead of pull and tug.
Lastly, we show our patients strength exercises, stretches, and methods of self-massage that can assist in the healing process and reduce further pain and injury to the area.
We have had a number of patients coming to see us with pain associated with Plantar Fasciitis. You may ask yourself, “What does Plantar Fasciitis feel like?” Patients report that the pain is most common on the bottom middle of the foot and in the heel. This pain is usually the worst in the early morning when they first get out of bed.
Pain that is true Plantar Fasciitis comes from inflammation of the thick, band-like tissue that connects the heel bone of your foot to the toes. This tissue is called the Plantar Fascia. Standing for long periods of time, getting up quickly from an office chair after sitting for a long period of time, as well as running and other strenuous exercises can all inflame Plantar Fasciitis. Plantar Fasciitis can be greatly affected by the shoes you wear normally or those you use for exercise.
The job of the fascia is to absorb shock and transfer force when standing and walking. Plantar fascia is a very thick and strong structure that can become inflamed and over time can cause intense pain and tightness in the foot.
Using ART (Active Release Techniques) we seek to “release” the Soft Tissue that consists of muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves by breaking up the scar tissue that is binding the fascia and causing tension and pain in the foot. We also utilize ice to help provide relief and to reduce inflammation. If you are experiencing pain in your feet, please make an appointment for evaluation prior to starting any home treatment. This will allows us to pinpoint the cause of your pain and recommend the best forms of treatment to provide you with relief!
WHAT IS ART