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 ART