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Chris Wood, R.M.T.

Helping your body to heal itself.

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The Postural Dialogues Chapter 3 Repetitive Strain Injuries

Posted on February 6, 2013 at 11:47 AM Comments comments (468)
The Postural Dialogues
Chapter 3:  Repetitive Strain Injuries
 
 
By
Chris Wood, R.M.T., B.A., B.Ed., D.S.W.
 
I was at a family barbeque a couple of weekends ago when I heard a very familiar question, “Uncle Chris, my shoulder hurts.  Can you fix it?”
 
This question was quickly followed by my 23 year old nephew asking, “Do you think that this could this be the start of a Repetitive Strain Injury?”
 
I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised that at his age he was concerned about his long term physical health and though he didn’t realize it, improving his posture.  This was more surprising since unlike his brothers, physical fitness has never been high on his priority list.
 
Then I realized that my nephew had recently started a construction job.
 
My nephew, who has always been a bright and observant young man, had obviously been watching and listening to his co-workers and recognized one of the long term risks associated with his chosen occupation, Repetitive Strain Injuries.
 
Being the experienced uncle, I realized that for several reasons this was not the right time or place to talk to him about his injury and potential risk of other injuries.
 
The following is an email I sent him a few days later,
 
 
Hey Buddy,
 
Sorry I couldn’t get into your questions about Repetitive Strain Injuries with you further last weekend.  I thought that this email would be a great starting point to help answer your questions and concerns.
 
First off, let me fully explain what a Repetitive Strain Injury is so there is no confusion on your part.  Then you will also have a better understanding of how to avoid it.
 
As an former instructor at my college (Fionna Rattray) taught, Repetitive Strain Injuries usually occur in the work place when we force our bodies to do the same (repetitive) movements over and over again.  This can lead to poor posture, muscle imbalances, fatigue and damage.  It is often the muscles, tendons, and nerves of the shoulders, neck, and arms that are affected.  The symptoms often include pain, numbness, and weakness.  As we try to compensate for the initial discomfort by changing our posture or muscles used, the pain will often migrate from one area to another.  Things like inadequate rest breaks and emotional / psychological stress can make the condition worse.
 
Repetitive Stress Injuries can lead to chronic tissue fatigue and even impaired motor control.
 
Some of the conditions that fall under the Repetitive Strain Injury umbrella include,Tendonitis, Tenosynovitis, Trigger Points (knots in your muscles), Myalgia (muscle pain), and nerve entrapments such as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Pronator Teres Syndrome, and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (you should know that the first two syndromes are often misdiagnosed as the last).
 
Don’t worry though, there are some things that you can do to help yourself.  First off, you need to exercise and establish a program of stretches and strength building exercises that first improves and then maintains your proper posture.  Decreasing both the muscle tension and hypermobility in your joints is also important.  My suggestion would be to try Yoga and / or Tai Chi.
 
Of course you also need to have good nutrition.  No buddy, your Mom and your girlfriend did not make me say this.  It’s true, when we consume the proper nutrients on a daily basis we not only fuel our bodies properly but we assist in its maintenance and constant repairs.
 
When you are on the job site it is important to look at how all the tasks are performed and how your body feels.  Are you using some muscles more often than others (especially the muscle(s) that relaxes when that one contracts).  One important muscle to watch is the pecs or pectoral muscles of the chest.   If the pecs get too strong and the muscles in the back are allowed to be stretched and weakened then the pecs will begin to pull the arm out of the shoulder joint.  At first this will just cause rounded shoulders which just look bad, but in time as the condition worsens the arm will impinge or press against the muscles and nerves around the shoulder joint.  This muscle imbalance can decrease the range of motion in your shoulder and be quite painful.
 
You should also watch to see if some body parts are being kept in uncomfortable positions.  An example of this would be when you are sitting at a computer desk with your shoulders raised to type or use the mouse.  It is also important that your feet are planted firmly on the floor or a stool.
 
When on the worksite are you being asked to perform the same task repeatedly, often at high speeds or rapid movement, with little or no movement of your neck and shoulders?  This too can lead to problems over time.
 
My next suggestion would be to not only watch your posture and how your muscles are used when you are fresh, but to do it when you are tired after doing the job for several hours.  It is amazing how our posture changes and we use different muscles when extremely tired.  This is where it is important to take adequate breaks and to keep yourself well hydrated. Do drink lots of water and electrolytes (as found in many sports drinks).
 
The other thing to consider is the work environment and your personal happiness with the job.  If you are unhappy or not satisfied with parts of the job or the work environment; be it a coworker, a boss, company policies, or how things are organized and run, job stress can occur.  This stress can quickly worsen your problems.  As I have always said, being passionate about your job and enjoying the work environment is very important.
 
So that is my spiel about Repetitive Strain Injuries and how to avoid them.  As I told you at the barbeque, drop by my clinic and I will treat you and help get your shoulder injury on the road to recovery.
 
Love Always,
 
Your Uncle Chris
 
 
Please note that the story you have just read is fictional and not based on one specific person. The email conversation is also fictional and has been created to explain the importance of proper posture.  Please read the future segments of this series to learn more about posture and the various conditions that occur as a result of improper or poor posture and what you can do to improve yourself. 
 
For other installments of the Postural Dialogues or articles on massage therapy please visit my website at www.chriswoodrmt.com.
 
Chris
 
Chris Wood, R.M.T., B.A., B.Ed., D.S.W.
 

The Postural Dialogues Chapter Two The Law of Attraction

Posted on January 31, 2013 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (138)
THE POSTURAL DIALOGUES
Part Two: The Law of Attraction
 
By
Chris Wood, R.M.T., B.A., B.Ed., D.S.W.
 
 
“What is the one consistent factor that helps us to determine whether someone is attractive to us or not?” asked Emma.
 
As I sipped on my tea and considered her question I looked around the table at my friends to judge their reactions to another one of Emma’s famous “What do you think” questions.
 
“Height and weight” said Anne.
 
“No Anne, its brains and humour.   This is definitely a personality thing.” replied Sarah.
 
“No, it’s definitely personal grooming.” answered Matt with his fiancé Ashley quickly adding, “and smell of course. I just love a man who smells good.”
 
I waited for all the others to throw out their ideas before providing my own opinion, “I think its proper posture.”
 
Heads quickly twisted to look at me like I was crazy. 
 
“Think about it” I said, “everyone has different physical and personality traits that they are attracted to, right?  Some people like members of the opposite sex while others are attracted to people of the same gender.  Some are drawn to taller people, some shorter. The list of what attracts us to others is virtually endless.”
 
Everyone half nodded in agreement with my thinking but it was Emma who motioned me to elaborate.
 
I continued my explanation by asking them if, regardless of what their personal tastes are, had they ever noticed someone walking down the street and said, “Wow! They are really attractive.”
 
I continued by saying, “At that point you may not have even got a good look at the person’s face.  And you definitely didn’t have the chance to talk to them and see what they were like.  So what was it about them that attracted your attention?”
 
I saw a smile cross over Sarah’s face so I knew they were starting to see where I was coming from.
 
“What has happened,” I said, “is that you were drawn to how that person stood and moved.  There was something natural and healthy and dare I say beautiful or even sexy about their movement.  That is the one key, consistent factor that first draws our attention to other people.”
 
“I’m not sure about this Chris.” said Matt. “Let’s see if I get this right. So you are saying that our personal tastes are not the key thing that attracts us to other people.  It is how they stand and hold themselves that does the trick?”
 
“Initially, yes Matt.”  I replied, “It is like being in a job interview.  As you all know, the most important part of the interview is the first fifteen to thirty seconds as you walk into the room, greet the interviewers, and sit down.  You have to first catch the attention of the interviewers and get them on your side or else you spend the next thirty minutes climbing mountains trying to get their attention and approval.”
 
“And once you have their attention,” replied Matt with a smile coming onto his face, “Then you can show off all your other qualities.  That does make a lot of sense.”
 
 “I get it” said Anne, “If someone came in slouched over or moving with obvious pain, my first thought would be, can they actually do the job properly and could they be counted on to be there each and every day, and would they be ready and able to work?”
 
“And then you would ask the critical but not politically correct question, how would the customers react to them?” Ashley added, “After all, we all know why restaurants hire young attractive women and men as servers, don’t we?”
 
“Sex sells!” exclaimed Sarah and Anne in unison.
 
“I’ll take this even one step further.” I said, “When the alignment of your hips is out, your body positions itself in ways that often make you appear heavier than you actually are.  In our weight obsessed world having a good posture and looking thin is very important.”
 
“Unfortunately you are right.” said Ashley. “Most people usually look at the cover before deciding to look at what is inside.”
 
“That’s so true Ashley. But if I can go one step further, when you achieve and maintain proper posture more of your muscles are being equally engaged in the balancing act to keep your skeleton properly aligned.  This is very good as your movements then look more controlled and powerful, which adds to the sense of health and beauty.”
 
“Of course,” I added “when your body is properly aligned, you also decrease the aches, and pains that occur when one muscle is much stronger than the others and pulls your other muscles and bones out of alignment.  Basically through proper posture you feel better.”
 
“Wait a minute” said Sarah, “If my body is in proper posture, would that mean there‘d be less stress lines throughout my body and my skin would look more healthy and youthful?”
 
“That’s right Sarah,” I answered, “When the opposing muscles are in balance they aren’t pulling at each other and the skin that covers them.  This happens a lot in places like your lower back, neck, or stomach.”
 
“So how do you get this great posture” asked Matt “I suppose you will say that as a massage therapist you can do all this, right:?”
 
“Massage is good Matt, but it works best when used in conjunction with other practices Matt,” I said, “As a Registered Massage Therapist I work with my clients, other health care professionals, and even personal trainers to first heal the body’s injuries, then relax and lengthen muscles that are tight or in spasm. Next we create, implement, monitor and modify an exercise program that strengthens the client’s muscles to the point of achieving muscle balances throughout the body. 
 
“This is how we as a team help each client to improve their posture.”
 
“Wow!” said Emma, “This isn’t exactly where I thought this discussion would take us but it has given me some things to think about and explore.”
 
 
 Please note that the story you have just read is not based on specific people.  The conversation is fictional and has been created to explain the importance of proper posture.  Please read the future segments of this series to learn more about posture and the various conditions that occur as a result of improper or poor posture and what you can do to improve yourself.
 
Chris
 
Chris Wood, R.M.T., B.A., B.Ed., D.S.W.

THE POSTURAL DIALOGUES Part One: The Dilemma

Posted on July 19, 2012 at 12:39 AM Comments comments (114)
THE POSTURAL DIALOGUES
 
Part One:
The Dilemma
 
The other day a client, Roderick, came to me in frustration.  For years he had been working very hard to keep in shape.  Roderick went for long walks with his dogs every day.  He also trained at the local gym three to four times a week doing cardio exercises, weight training, and stretches.  On top of this Roderick maintained a healthy diet.  Yet for all this work he kept having injuries, feeling general soreness, and was tired a great deal of the time.  Roderick felt that in many ways his health was declining not improving.
 
His question was simple, “What is stopping me from improving my physical health?”
 
Sometimes an example is better than words so I had Roderick stand in front of a full length mirror and close his eyes.  I then asked him to bend his knees slightly so they weren’t locked.  Then I had him readjust his hips using his (lower abdominal muscles), bend at the waist until he felt his upper stomach muscles engage, straighten his middle back, roll his shoulders back and lift up his head.  (For those who practice yoga you will recognize that I had my client move into the Standing Mountain pose.)
 
I then asked Roderick to tell me how he felt.  His response was immediate, “This feels really strange and awkward.”  
 
Then I asked him to open his eyes and tell me what he saw in the mirror.  Roderick was amazed.  He was standing tall and straight, his hips were no longer tilted forward (causing his torso to bend forward), he did not have an exaggerated curve in his lower back (the lumbar spine), his shoulders were no longer rounded, and his head and neck were positioned straight above his shoulders. 
 
For the first time in years Roderick had good posture. 
 
The strange, awkward sensation he was feeling was caused by muscle imbalances in his body because some muscles were too short and strong while others too long and weak.   
 
I then asked Roderick to first walk on the spot for ten seconds, next to bend forward and walk on the spot for another ten seconds before returning to his initial position and walk for another ten seconds.  Afterwards my questions to him were simple, “In what position did you feel the best?” and “In which position did you use the least amount of energy?”
 
His answer was just as quick as before, “There is more strain and energy used when I bent forward.”
I gave a knowing nod and a smile and said, “For a moment I want you to think of yourself not as the living, breathing human being that you are but as a machine.  In fact, I want you to think of yourself as a highly tuned, fancy sports car.  Now, if any part, be it a cam shaft in the engine, a spark plug, or an axle or bearing is out of alignment, what will happen to the sports car?” 
 
Roderick, a sports enthusiast and lover of fine automobiles broke into a smile and replied, “Well at first the car might run a bit rough but it would probably keep going.  Then the fuel consumption will increase and the performance will decrease.  In time all the parts will wear out quicker than expected and in abnormal ways and need to be replaced.”  After a moment’s thought he looked at me with a twinkle in his eyes and asked, “Are you suggesting that humans are like cars?” 
 
My answer was just as quick as many of his had been, “Yes” I said.  I then went on to explain that the human body is the most amazing and complex machine in the world.  More often than not it is not pre-existing physical deformities, known as manufacturing defects in automotive circles, that will cause most of our problems but rather injuries brought about by either normal, daily activities and wear and tear, or by accidents.  
 
At that moment it was like a light bulb had gone off in my client’s head.  “So you are saying that when my posture does not fall within normal ranges or specifications my body will stop functioning correctly?  I will stop operating at optimum performance levels, and injuries will start to happen?  But how long does this take to happen and how can I correct things?”
 
“Sometimes,” I said, “we will notice the changes immediately, especially after an accident.  Usually though, the changes happen gradually and we don’t notice it right away.  Just like when the timing of a car’s engine needs a tune up.  The change is so slow that we only notice it when the engine runs really rough.”  I paused for a moment before continuing, “Unlike cars, we can’t do a complete mechanical overhaul and replace all the broken or worn out parts.  Luckily though with treatments from Massage Therapists, Chiropractors, Osteopaths, and Physiotherapists many imbalances can be improved or corrected allowing the client to improve their posture and their physical activities.”
 
I then said something that stopped Roderick in his tracks.  “Sometimes, it is our solution to the problem that causes more problems.  When we exercise and strengthen our muscles we often focus our attentions on some muscles while totally ignoring others.  This can lead to the skeleton being pulled into unnatural or improper postural positions.  Often, without realizing it, we are the cause of our own problems.”
 
Roderick stood up and began to leave but suddenly turned and said, “Thanks for answering my question.  I’ll be back with more questions.” 
 
“And I will be here, ready and willing to answer them.” I replied.
 
Please note that the story you have just read is not based on one specific person but is a compilation of various clients and situations.  The appointment and conversation is fictional and has been created to explain the importance of proper posture.  Please read the future segments of this series to learn more about posture and the various conditions that occur as a result of improper or poor posture and what you can do to improve yourself.  I encourage you to try the tests mentioned to see how your posture stacks up.