Researchers at Cambridge University have made a fascinating discovery about bones and bone health. They found that the brittle microscopic crystals that form our bones are both bound together and protected from one another by a viscous goo, making bones flexible and resilient. “A large part of bone mineral – possibly as much as half of it in fact – is made up of this goo.” This explains why we don’t break our hip every time we step off of a curb, and it may explain osteoporosis and other bone conditions.
When Monica Guzman interviewed me for a story on standing desks the other day, I pictured maybe a quote or two of mine ending up in the paper. I actually end up being featured fairly prominently in the story. They even embedded my Ignite Seattle talk on DIY standing desk designs.
The most intriguing detail in the story is the fact that Tableau, a hot software start-up in Fremont, has bought sit-stand workstations for all 1,200 of their employees. It’s still much more common for companies to resist investing in office fitness infrastructure. In fact, I was just talking yesterday with a client who works at Nordstrom, and he was baffled (since he has learned so much from me about how harmful sitting is) that they still require a doctor’s note before they’ll get an employee a standing desk.
With standing desk and sit-stand desk prices dropping by the day, and with the growing awareness of the harmfulness of sitting, I truly hope that more companies follow Tableau’s lead.
Every day since I began learning muscle anatomy and physiology in massage school in 1997, I have studied at least one of my old muscle flash cards each morning, reviewing the origins, insertions, actions, and other characteristics of a randomly selected muscle.
Today it was the diaphragm, the big dome-shaped muscle across the top of your abdomen that pulls the base of your thorax down to help you fill your lungs when you take a breath. I recalled that the psoas, a muscle that lies deep inside your abdomen, running from the front of your lumbar vertebrae to the front of your hip joint, is connected to the diaphragm. The very topmost fibers of the psoas mingle with the diaphragm in a relationship that anatomists call interdigitation (like fingers interlacing).
You can’t quite see the interdigitation in the image at right. Like most anatomy pictures, it has removed the fuzzy myofascial connective tissue that stitches everything together (and obscures the muscles it wants to show). But you can clearly see how the lower part of the diaphragm (below the yellow dot) lines up with, and is adjacent to, the uppermost fibers of the psoas muscle (green dot).
In my morning reverie, I pictured the overall relationship like a big soup ladle, the dome of the diaphragm the bowl and the psoas the handle. I also pictured how as the diaphragm contracted it could pull on the psoas, perhaps causing it to contract a bit. The action of the psoas is to flex the hip, so I thought about how breath could be connected to locomotion, and vice versa. I set that thought aside and got on with my day.
A couple of hours later I was walking from the bus stop to my office. Just as I took a step with my right leg, I sneezed. As I sneezed, I felt my psoas contract and jerk my leg up a bit more. Much like I had imagined in the morning, the connection between the diaphragm and the psoas had pulled taut. As I coughed, my lungs forcefully emptied, pulling my diaphragm up and tugging on the psoas via the myofascial interdigitation, giving that one step a little more flexion than my non-sneezing steps.
OK, this whole post may just be some weird massage therapist TMI, but I found this interesting and instructive. It reminds me of that drawing in Ida Rolf’s book about how the web of fascia in our bodies ties together remote and apparently disparate parts of our body, connecting large swaths of our body like the fabric in a sweater. Tug at the waist and it can pull on the shoulder, and vice versa. Reminds me, too, that I should spend less time looking at those overly dissected pictures of pure muscle with no connective tissue and more time in a dissection lab.
If your muscles are sore after a workout, should you reach for a pain pill or get a massage? A new scientific study suggest that you should go for the massage.
Massage after vigorous exercise reduces pain and speeds muscle recovery, without the counterproductive side effects of drugs like aspirin and naproxen, concludes Dr. Mark A. Tarnopolsky, a researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
Specifically, his research found that massage activated genes that reduce the production of cytokines, which are involved in inflammation and pain, and it stimulated mitochondria function, which drives cell function and repair.
“The bottom line,” says Dr. Tarnopolsky, “is that there appears to be a suppression of pathways in inflammation and an increase in mitochondrial biogenesis.”
A NY Times story on the study asked Dr. Tarnopolsky about the difference between the effects of massage and drugs on post-exercise pain: “Massage works quite differently from NSAIDs and other anti-inflammatory drugs, which reduce inflammation and pain but may actually retard healing. Many people, for instance, pop an aspirin or Aleve at the first sign of muscle soreness. ‘There’s some theoretical concern that there is a maladaptive response in the long run if you’re constantly suppressing inflammation with drugs,’ [Dr. Tarnopolsky] said. ‘With massage, you can have your cake and eat it too — massage can suppress inflammation and actually enhance cell recovery.’”
The Times story also quotes Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Resarch Institute. “We have known from many studies,” she said, “that pain can be reduced by massage based on self-report, but this is the first demonstration that the pain-related pro-inflammatory cytokines can be reduced.”
Another report on the study emphasizes the molecular-biology angle of the findings. In an article entitled “Massage’s Mystery Mechanism Unmasked,” the prestigious journal Science reports, “Massage’s healing touch may have more to do with DNA than with good hands. [Dr. Tarnopolsky’s] study has revealed for the first time how kneading eases sore muscles — by turning off genes associated with inflammation and turning on genes that help muscles heal.”
The Science article also quotes a muscle-injury researcher at Ohio State University. Dr. Thomas Best, an expert on evidence-based sports medicine says, “This is probably the best study I’ve seen that looks at the biological basis for massage therapy.”
The study designed a very simple massage protocol consisting of three basic Swedish massage techniques. These techniques are simple enough that anyone can learn them very quickly (in my couples massage class, for example), so you probably don’t even need a professional massage to reap the benefits found in the study – a nice rub-down from your partner or a family member or a good self-massage should do the trick.
One of my favorite details about this study is its methodology. The investigators somehow managed to convince 11 young men to permit multiple muscle biopsies to get the tissues needed to for the experiment. I don’t know if they were jabbing them with needles or taking samples with a scalpel. Regardless, I’d just like to extend my sincere gratitude to those guys for offering up their bodies up for the advancement of science.
If today’s weather forecast holds, this will be about the 27th time in a row that the day on which I teach my couples massage class is unseasonably sunny and nice. I’m offering the class this Saturday, which you could have figured out just by glancing at this screen shot from my iPhone weather app.
(By the way, a slot just opened up in this Saturday’s class. If you’d like to attend, please e-mail me or call me at 206-624-6255.)
I haven’t taken the time yet to correlate historical weather data with my class dates, but I could swear that it is always insanely beautiful outdoors on the days that I am obligated to be indoors.
If this pattern holds I may just have to start a business around this. I can picture people who are planning picnics, outdoor weddings, and similar events paying a hefty licensing fee for my data on which dates are safe for their weather-dependent activities
I am raising my rates for wellness massage today. The new rates are:
- $80 for a one-hour session
- $120 for a one-and-a-half-hour session
My rates have always been on the low end for downtown (and still are) and have held steady for nearly four years. Over the past four years I have:
- earned numerous 5-star ratings at Yelp and other online review sites
- completed over 150 hours of continuing education
- honed my orthopedic massage skills with daily practice and self-study
- added neurofascial massage treatments to my repertoire
- helped hundreds of people get out of pain
So I think that even at these new rates, I’m still a pretty good deal
Ode to Larry, Feb 14, 2011
I met Larry in the first year that I moved to Seattle. By the second year, I had made use of his skills as an LMP. It is a decision that has served me well for the last ten years. Larry has been able to offer me healing hands through a life time of soccer injuries, stress of work, research, school, travel and occasional self maintenance days. I have always felt comfortable, cared for and safe on his table.
I think Larry is one of the most interesting men I know in Seattle, he is affable and informed. I appreciate that he is active in his profession and continued to grow, apply and offer different modalities and techniques to his clients. He has a wonderful combination of practical wisdom and professionalism mixed in with a childlike joy for life and all things interesting. I enjoy that he shares the names of all the structures, muscles, tendons and fascia that he works on, and reviews how they are all connected. It helps me connect the dots to better posture, decreasing back pain, stretching out calf muscles, and getting through challenging psoas and periformis sessions.
He listens! He takes his cue from you. You get to decide if you need quiet during the session or if you are up for comfortable conversation. Larry can accommodate either. He checks in with you, asks for feedback and is responsive in his methods of individualizing his care. He’s encourage me to be an active part in my own treatment by putting me to work with passive resistance stretches or offering me suggestions for moves I can do at home. He is open to ideas and interested to know what works for you. During our sessions, I can ask him to focus on a current issue, from my sinuses to my feet, or ask for what he calls his “office worker’s special” which I have come to know is a good once over of head, neck shoulders and back. He knows my weak spot is my lower back and he will go slow and probe. He knows my tough spots, like my plantar fascia, where deep pressure is the only thing that brings me relief. He has smooth transitions and reminds me to breathe if I forget. I’ve learned to recognize his closing strokes. I appreciate the consistency of his closure because it gives me time to prepare for the massage to end, it is not abrupt, just a peaceful adjourned. He always give you time on the table after the massage to regroup and compose yourself in privacy.
I’ve been through three or four different locations with Larry. The space he currently occupies offers a number of advantages over his previous locations, making it easier to relax. He is now at the end of a hall way, with another LMP next door. It’s quiet and warm in the winter, comfortable in the summer. Larry and I may have gaps of time between sessions, but I have always come back to track down his reliable personality, smile and, of course, skilled massage. Every session has been an excellent healing experience.
He is a man of many talents. If he can beat on drums for hours and hours, I am confident he can bring your tired and abused body some relief. You will want more than one session, so book ahead. I got my Valentine’s day therapy session booked already. I cannot imagine life without the years and years of having such talented and reliable care available to me, I wish everyone was so lucky.
Thank you Larry, for being there for me!
I had coffee this morning with a friend who is also a massage client. She was very appreciative of the massage she got last week and was kind enough to tell me why she likes my work.
She appreciates that, while I provide a serene and relaxing massage, I also educate her about her posture and anatomy in a way that helps her take care of herself between massage sessions. This pleases me to no end. From the day I first launched my practice, one of my priorities has been to help instill in my clients a sense of “body awareness.” To be honest, I had only a fuzzy idea about what I meant by this when I first started practicing. But now, after 12 years of practice, I am very confident about what body awareness is and how to help people develop it.
The highlight of our conversation was my friend enthusiastically proclaiming that we should all make massage a priority (and not regard it as an occasional treat). I wish I could hire her as my director of sales and marketing
But seriously, in a world where some doctors estimate that more than half of all disease is due to stress, shouldn’t we all make regular massage – the best stress reducer known to humankind – a priority?
The Seattle Times reported today that the City of Seattle will increase rates for curbside street parking. The plan is to use market-based pricing, charging more for prime locations and/or peak times of the day (and possibly reducing rates during off-peak times). Paid street parking hours may also be extended.
I recently added a Medical Dental Building parking information page to this site, and I’ll do my best to keep you updated on further changes to the downtown parking scene as I discover them.
One parking tidbit: DO NOT park in the Impark lot at the Bank of America right across the street from the Medical Dental Building. They charge about twice as much as other nearby parking options ($18 vs. $6-10).