Tag Archives: remedial massage

*Sale* 20% off Gift Certificates

Still looking for the perfect gift for that special someone, or perhaps the person who has is all…

Between now and Christmas Day I am offering 20% off all gift certificates*

To purchase please click on the Gift Certificate menu and choose from relaxation or remedial massage.

Each treatment is tailored to the clients specific needs, whether it is treating muscular pain and dysfunction or an hour of total relaxation. All treatments are suitable during pregnancy.

Also, please remember you can book online and to like my Facebook page to keep up to date with my services and offers.

 

*Gift certificates are valid for 12 months from date of purchase. They must be produced as payment at the time of the appointment and cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.

Muscle in focus: Hamstrings

The hamstrings

I know I call this ‘muscle in focus’ but the hamstrings is really a group of muscles, three to be precise. At the back of the thigh, between the hip and the knee, semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris all have two main actions, extension of the hip and flexion of the knee. They play a crucial role in standing up, walking, running, jumping… and are the major antagonist of the quadraceps. [1]

They are also the most injured muscles in the body.

Hamstring muscle injury is a common athletic injury, particularly for runners, running & jumping athletes like footballers, long & high jumpers, and dancers.

The most common cause of a muscle or tendon strain is overuse, which weakens the tissue fibers. Muscles and joints may also be forced to perform movements for which they are not prepared or designed, over stretching and potentially damaging the surrounding muscle or tendon. An injury can occur from a single stressful incident, or it may gradually arise after many repetitions of a motion. [2]

The word “ham” is derived from the Old English ham or hom meaning the hollow or bend of the knee, from a Germanic base where it meant “crooked”. … String refers to tendons, and thus, the hamstrings are the string-like tendons felt on either side of the back of the knee.

Injuries to the hamstring group of muscles can range from a minor strain to a major rupture. A minor or grade I tear to a hamstring will most likely heal with a small amount of physical therapy, such as massage and dry needling. A major, grade III tear or full rupture could be a major disruption to an athletes sporting career and may require surgery.

World Athletics Championships, 2017

Even someone at an Olympic level like sprinter Usain Bolt is not immune to injury, tearing his hamstring in the World Athletics Championships earlier this year.

How do they happen?

At the knee, these muscles act to slow down your leg as it swings forward very quickly during in preparation for footstrike. It’s this action that commonly leads to injuries because the muscle is trying to shorten and contract, but the knee is extending very quickly, which pulls on the hamstring and creates a tremendous amount of strain.

At the hip, these powerful muscles generate force just prior to the foot coming off of the ground as they extend the hip backwards. Injuries can occur at this point of the running cycle because these muscles are generating tremendous amounts of force to maintain, or increase, forward running velocity. [3]

What are the symptoms?

You don’t have to be an elite athlete to injure the hamstring. Over use, misuse and lack of stretching or massage can put you at risk. Even tight quadraceps can contribute to tight hamstrings.

Symptoms of a strained or torn hamstring could include sudden and severe pain during exercise, along with a snapping or popping feeling in the area, pain in the back of the thigh and lower buttock when walking, straightening the leg, or bending over; tenderness; bruising in the area. [4]

In severe cases, you can tear your hamstring from its point of origin on the ischial tuberosity (sit bones). This is called a hamstring origin avulsion. In extreme cases, an avulsion fracture will occur where the hamstring muscle tears the bone where it attaches off your pelvis. This happens after a sudden and forceful eccentric contraction of your hamstrings with your hip flexed, for example, when hurdling or performing the splits. When this occurs, it is necessary to undergo surgery in order to reattach the bones.  [5]

How is it treated?

If you feel you have strained or torn a hamstring muscle, the first thing to do is R.I.C.E.R. – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate and Refer, as in refer to a health care practitioner.

The risk of hamstring injury can be reduced with a regular stretching program and exercises. However, a strained or torn hamstring will need soft tissue therapy, some biomechanical assessment to find the cause of the injury, heat & ice therapy and stretching. Once the pain has eased, the muscle will benefit from gentle exercise and a strengthening program.

Static hamstring stretch

Straight leg hamstring stretch

Lying on your back, raise your leg straight up until you feel the tug of the muscle. Don’t over stretch or force the stretch. If you feel numbness in your foot, ease the stretch off a fraction until the numbness subsides.

Breathe deeply and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Lower the leg and rest for 10 seconds. Repeat each leg 3 times.

If you need to support the leg, use a towel or belt looped around the arch of the foot.

 

To increase flexibility

Lie on the floor in a doorway or close to a corner of a wall.

Place one leg up against the wall, the other is straight on the floor and your buttock is as close as possible to the door frame or wall.

Extend the elevated leg and pull your toe own as much as possible until you feel a stretch behind your thigh.

Hold the stretch for between 10 and 30 seconds.

Active Stretch

If you’re a particularly flexible person, but still have tight hamstrings, you could benefit from an active stretch.

Lie face up with a theraband around the arch of the foot to be stretched. Bend this knee. Hold the stretch theraband in one hand, arm straight. Stabilize the thigh with the other hand.

Exhale, straighten the knee while lifting up on the theraband, until extended.

Lower the leg and repeat 5 times. Finish with a static stretch.

Foam rolling

Place a foam roller on the floor and sit on the floor supporting yourself with your hands.

Place the back of one thigh over the foam roller and the other leg on the floor for support. Support your core and have proper low back posture during the exercise.

Gearing up for summer: Summer Specials

From now until the end of February I will be offering some special add on treatments especially for summer.

Getting a sunless tan?

Dry Exfoliation tools

Good for you, it’s the healthiest way to look sunkist!

Add-on a 15 minute full body dry exfoliation to your 1 hour full body relaxation massage. You’ll be exfoliated and moisturised, ready for a tan!

Don’t forget to book your massage a day or so before your tan, so that no oil remains on your skin when get your sunless tan.

Getting bikini ready?

Summer Ready?

Book a 45 minute Manual Lymphatic Drainage treatment with a 15 minute cupping add-on to help reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Cupping can release the tension in the fascial layer between the skin and muscle that can create the rippled effect of cellulite. While lymphatic drainage helps drain excess fluid that may be retained in those areas.

In a 1 hour treatment, two adjacent areas of the body can be targeted; such as the buttocks and back of thighs or stomach and front of thighs. The use of silicone rubber cups means minimal marking and you can get into that bikini within a few days.

I recommend between two and four weekly treatments for best results.

Book 4 treatments for the price of 3!

To book: click Book Now and look for the Summer Special option.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any queries about treatments or what might be best for you.

Magnesium: what is it & what does it do for you?

I regularly recommend my clients use magnesium, either in the form of a supplement, topical cream or oil, or as salts dissolved in a warm bath.

But what is magnesium, and what does it do for our body?

The Science

Magnesium

Magnesium is a chemical element. It is the fourth most common element on Earth, and the third most common dissolved in seawater. Magnesium is the eleventh most abundant element by mass in the human body and is essential to all cells and some 300 enzymes.

The important interaction between phosphate and magnesium ions makes magnesium essential to the basic nucleic acid chemistry of all cells of all known living organisms. More than 300 enzymes require magnesium ions for their catalytic action, including all enzymes using or synthesizing adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

Now I don’t want this to turn into a boring chemistry lecture, but ATP is a complex organic chemical that participates in many processes, including providing energy for nearly all of the body’s metabolic processes and muscular contraction. 20% of the body’s magnesium is for skeletal muscle function.[1]

Magnesium is also an imperative part in;

  • Nerve conduction
  • The production of energy from carbohydrates and fats
  • The production and maintenance of healthy bones, including the synthesis of bone matrix, bone mineral metabolism and the maintenance of bone density
  • Maintenance of healthy heart function and normal heart rhythm.[2]

Where can we source magnesium?

The Source

Nuts, Greens, Cocoa & Spices

Spices, nuts & seeds, cereals, cocoa (W00T!) and leafy green vegetables are rich sources of magnesium. [3]

Thankfully, if we are not getting enough magnesium in our diet, or are experiencing symptoms of magnesium deficiency alternative methods for magnesium intake is readily available.

Bath salts

Magnesium chloride

Magnesium chloride is extracted from seawater and is more readily absorbed through the skin than other forms of magnesium, so it’s perfect for bath salts. It is not for ingestion.

Magnesium sulfate

Magnesium sulfate is more commonly known as Epsom salts. A great source of magnesium and available in most supermarkets and chemists, Epsom salts have been popular since it was discovered in the British town it was named after, in the 17th century. [4]

Topical creams and oils

As both magnesium chloride and sulfate are absorbed through the skin, they make great topical applications and are available in creams and oils that can be rubbed directly on the sore or cramping muscle. Great for carrying in your sports or travel bag and cant get to a bath.

Topical spray, supplements, bath salts

Supplements

Magnesium itself cannot be absorbed and needs to be bonded to another molecule to be absorbed. The most common bonding agents are oxide, citrate, glycinate, sulphate or amino acid chelate.

This is the least absorbed form, but also has one of the highest percentages of elemental magnesium per dose so it still may be the  highest absorbed dose per mg. This is a great general purpose magnesium if really Mg is all you need.  It makes a simple muscle relaxer, nerve tonic and laxative if you take a high dose.

This is one of the most common forms of Mg on the commercial market. This is Mg bonded to citric acid, which increases the rate of absorption. Citrate is a larger molecule than the simple oxygen of oxide, so there is less magnesium by weight than in the oxide form. This is the most commonly used form in laxative preparations.

In this form, Mg is bonded to the amino acid glycine. Glycine itself is a relaxing neurotransmitter and so enhances magnesium’s natural relaxation properties. This could be the best form if you’re using it for mental calm and relaxation.

Magnesium amino acid chelate is usually bonded to a variety of amino acids. In this form there is less magnesium by weight but the individual amino acids could all be beneficial for different things. Every formula is different so if you need both Mg and a particular amino acid, then this could be the way to go. [5]

Recommended daily intake of magnesium is;

  • 400 mg/day for men aged 19-30 years, increasing to 420 mg/day for those aged 31 and above,
  • For women aged 19-30 years, the RDI is 310 mg/day, increasing to 320 mg over the age of 30,
  • Depending on their age, the RDI for adult women who are pregnant is 350-360 mg/day.
  • The RDI for breastfeeding for those who are breastfeeding is 310-320 mg of magnesium each day. [6]

What happens if I don’t have enough magnesium?

The Symptoms

If you’re not getting enough magnesium in your diet then you may be experiencing symptoms such as;

  • Muscular cramp

    Muscular problems such as cramps, twitches, slow to recover from injury, aches and pains,

  • Fibromyalgia is sometimes linked to magnesium deficiency,
  • Migraines and headaches, including tension headaches,
  • Period pain and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, including mood swings , fluid retention, premenstrual migraines,
  • Stress, irritability, insomnia and anxiety,
  • Fatigue, which may be a symptom of magnesium deficiency.

It may also play a role in helping to maintain cardiovascular health and healthy bone density.

What could be causing my magnesium deficiency?

The Seed

  • Stress (especially when prolonged or severe),
  • Inadequate sleep,
  • Profuse perspiration,
  • Excessive consumption of caffeine, salt, sugar and alcohol,
  • Heavy menstrual periods,
  • Eating large quantities of processed and refined foods,
  • The use of some multiple pharmaceutical medications,
  • Gastrointestinal disorders such as short-term diarrhoea or vomiting and conditions that affect your absorption of nutrients,
  • Getting older. [7]

Can I have too much magnesium?

Doses less than 350 mg daily are safe for most adults. When taken in very large amounts, magnesium is possibly unsafe.

Symptoms of magnesium overdose include;

  • diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • lethargy
  • muscle weakness
  • irregular heartbeat
  • low blood pressure
  • urine retention
  • respiratory distress
  • cardiac arrest. [8]

 

The best way to ensure you’re getting enough magnesium is to maintain a healthy diet of whole foods and steer clear of processed and refined foods. If you are getting regular cramps or muscular pain it might be a good idea to get some advice from your physical therapist.

Maintaining muscular health can be as easy as regular gentle exercise and stretching, fresh air and water each day, a 20 minute magnesium bath a week, some leafy greens and nuts in your diet and regular massage.

If you think you have a serious magnesium deficiency you should consult your doctor.

 

Have you ever used magnesium? How did it work for you?

Need a massage but in a lunch rush?

Half hour massages now available

Do you work or live locally and are looking for a quick massage in your lunch hour?
We now offer 30 minute massage, tailored to suit your needs.

‘Gone to Lunch’

Sore lower back? Tight neck and shoulders? Headache? Tight hamstrings from this mornings workout? Whatever your need, try a quick half hour massage to suit.
Book online now, call or message 0450721661

Yoga or Pilates? What’s the difference? Which one is best for me?

Many of my clients, looking for a way to stretch and keep their muscles pain free ask me whether yoga or Pilates is a good option for them and which is best. The reality is that both are great ways to keep moving but are good for our bodies in different ways.

Pilates was developed in the early 20th Century by Joseph Pilates, a German physical trainer. He developed his concept of an integrated, comprehensive system of physical exercise, which he himself called “Contrology” through the study of yoga and the movements of animals combined with his knowledge as a gymnast, bodybuilder and boxer.

Reformer Pilates

Pilates is great for movement of joints and focused strengthening of the muscles. It can help strengthen areas that may be weakened by a sedentary lifestyle, injury or misuse of the area. It can help correct posture and motor skills through use of body weight exercises performed on the floor or with equipment such as the reformer or therabands, foam rollers and exercise balls.

Pilates equipment

Originating in India, yoga has been practised for centuries as a physical, mental and spiritual discipline. Various styles of yoga are popular today for developing greater strength, flexibility, relaxation and meditation. Popular styles throughout the world include hatha, iyengar and ashtunga yoga. Yoga can be used for improving the flexibility of the muscles and it will also increase the flexibility of the joints. Specific poses are said to massage organs, lengthen and strengthen muscles and tendons and promote inner wellbeing.

Yoga

While it’s impossible to tell how many people regularly practise both disciplines, it’s often said that yoga, with its countless offshoots and different styles is the most widely practised exercise system in the world. While Pilates estimate more than 25 million people worldwide as devotees, largely in western countries such as Australia, Canada and the UK.

Some experts say practising Pilates can help build strength to improve yoga performance. While stretching of yoga, will help relieve muscles sore from Pilates strengthening. As yoga and Pilates have different aims, it’s unlikely that combining the two would cause overuse. However, if muscles and joints are sore, give them time to rest and recover.

So which is best to incorporate into your routine?

Stretching

There is little scientific evidence to say which is best for what. Although I would say that if you are currently injured or not exercising that some stretching and prescribed or clinical Pilates instruction from a qualified physiotherapist or remedial massage therapist might be best. Starting yoga with an existing injury or little fitness could lead to further injury.

That said, gentle styles of yoga such as hatha and iyengar with a good instructor can be beneficial to all, especially for those looking for relaxation and guided meditation techniques.

Devotees to both disciplines will say that theirs is the better option. However, the thing to remember is that all movement is good movement, and the best exercise is always the one that you prefer – as this helps motivation and consistency, with improved and long-term results.

The best strategy? Try them for yourself and see what you like best.

Cold and flu season: Hit it before it hits you!

Winter Special

From now until the 31st of August, 2017 I am offering a winter special
of 45 minute manual lymphatic drainage treatments
to help you kick those winter sniffles.

 

Last flu season, for the first time in my adult life, I was hit by the dreaded flu lurgy. We all get a sniffle from time to time and have a whinge about it but this was the real deal. Fever sweats, congestion, pounding head, the works. Then once I’d just about kicked it and headed back to work, it knocked me off my feet again and sent me straight back to bed. When I was able to get back to work, I had a cough and a sniffle that just lingered for weeks.

Supporting the immune system with adequate sleep, healthy eating and regular exercise sometimes just isn’t enough. Sometimes our bodies need a little extra helping hand.

My solution to kick this bug in the butt was to have some manual lymphatic drainage.

Manual lymphatic drainage is a physical therapy that aids the flow of lymph throughout the body. The lymphatic system is a system, much like the circulatory system that circulates our blood but it in-fact has more vessels and transports more fluid than the circulatory system. Lymph fluid carries white blood cells throughout the body to help you fight infection, be it cancer or the common cold, and then carries away waste from the tissues to be flushed out of our system.

Lymphatic drainage techniques aid the body to carry out this process by stimulating the lymph nodes and with a slow and gentle technique, acts as a pump to move the fluid through the nodes, to then be naturally flushed out of the body.

In a 45 minute treatment we would focus on Shoulders, head, neck, face and scalp. The treatment is gentle and relaxing, and a great way to support your immune system in a natural way.

$65 for 45 minutes

Go to the Book Online page and chose “Winter Special” from the booking menu.

Muscle in Review: Sternocleidomstoid

Sternocleidomastoid muscle highlighted in red

Sternocleidomastoid, regularly abbreviated to SCM is located superficially, either side of the neck.

It originates at the sternum (sterno) and inserts at the clavicle (cleido) and mastoid process of the skull. It’s main function is head rotation and flexion of the neck.

How does SCM become injured?
SCM can be easily injured with sudden movement or jerks of the head, mostly commonly with whiplash.

 

Muscles in Upper Cross Syndrome

 

It is also often innervated in ‘upper cross syndrome’ where the upper neck and lower shoulder muscles are weak, while the upper shoulder and chest muscles are tight. This is largely due to poor posture as we hunch to use the mouse/keyboards or crane our necks over to look at our laptops or mobiles, or while driving.

What are the symptoms of an injured SCM?
A strained SCM can produce swelling and redness along the muscle, at the site of the injury. In severe cases, you also may see bruising along the path of the injury. If the strain results in a muscle spasm, you may notice a twitching or fluttering beneath the surface of the skin along the side of your neck. Stiffness, muscle fatigue and difficulty holding your head upright may occur, along with dull pain along the path of the injury, accompanied by sharp pain when turning or tilting your head.

Trigger points in SCM can cause headache pain in the back of the head, behind the ear, in the forehead but it can also cause a list of other symptoms that some may not normally attribute to muscles.

SCM trigger points

Primary Symptoms include;
Back of Head Pain
Cheek Pain (like Sinusitis)
Dizziness When Turning Head or Changing Field of View
Double/Blurry/Jumpy Print Vision
Dry Cough
Ear Pain
Earaches/Tinnitus (Ringing)/Itch
Feeling Continued Movement in Car After Stopping
Feeling Tilted When Cornering in Car
Front of Chest Pain
Frontal Headache
Headaches or Migraines
Post Nasal Drip
Runny Nose
Sore throat
Tearing/Reddening of Eye, Drooping of Eyelid
Temple and Eyebrow Pain
Temporal Headache (Temples)
Temporomandibular Joint (jaw) Pain
Throat & Front of Neck Pain
Travelling Nocturnal Sinus Stuffiness
Vertex Pain
Visual Perception Problems

How is SCM treated?
Applying ice for 10 minutes several times daily may relieve swelling and redness. Wearing a neck brace supports the weight of your head, temporarily relieving the stress on SCM although may only recommended temporarily and only in severe cases. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Neurofen) and naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve) and analgesic rubs can relieve some of the pain associated with the strain.

SCM is very responsive to massage and other soft tissue techniques such as gentle cupping, dry needling, and stretching.

  • Rotate your head to look over your shoulder, as far as is comfortable, not to strain.
  • Then gently tilt the head to the same side, as if trying to reach the ear to the shoulder.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds, rest and stretch the other side.

 

 

If you are a yogi, some basic yoga poses that can help lateral and anterior neck tension include;

Bitilasana (Cow Pose) and Marjariasana (Cat Pose)

Cow-Cat pose is a gentle up-and-down flowing posture that brings flexibility to the entire spine. It stretches and lengthens the back torso and neck. It’s a wonderful and easy movement to open and create space through the entire neck.
To begin with cow pose, kneel on your hands and knees in a neutral, tabletop position. Be sure to align the hands below the shoulders and knees directly beneath the hips. Looking straight ahead, inhale, and slowly extend through your spine as you look up and forward, softly arching through the back and neck. Take care to expand through your chest and lower your shoulders down and back.

Move into cat pose by reversing the movement as you exhale and bring your chin towards your chest while gently hunching and rounding your back. Repeat this sequence for 7 to 10 cycles, softly flowing with your breath.

Ardha Matsyendrasana (Seated Twist Pose)

The seated twist is a wonderful pose to bring flexibility to the entire spinal column. It provides an inner massage to the abdominal organs and encourages side-to-side flexibility of the neck.

Begin seated on the floor with both legs extended in front of you and hands at your sides. Bend the right knee and draw the right foot to the outside of the outstretched left leg. Sit up tall, inhale, and extend your left arm out to your left. As you exhale, draw your left arm across your body so the elbow joint gently wraps around your right knee. Take your right hand and place it palm down on the floor near your tailbone, fingers pointing away from you. Draw your chin toward your right shoulder, making sure to keep your spine tall, and the crown of your head reaching toward the sky. Bend the right elbow slightly to allow the right shoulder to sink down.

Breathe deeply in this pose for 5 to 7 breaths, making sure to twist (not crank) your spine comfortably. Repeat on the left side to maintain the balance in your body and spinal column.

Ear to Shoulder Pose

This is an easy pose that can be done just about anywhere. The pose facilitates the lateral movement of the neck as well as stretches down into the shoulder and trapezius muscles. This pose can be performed standing or sitting, provided the spine is straight.

Begin by looking straight ahead with your arms down at your sides. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, bring your right ear down toward your right shoulder. Try to avoid leaning your head forward or back so that your head remains in the same plane as your shoulders. Inhale as you draw your head back to center and exhale as you repeat the movement to the left.

To deepen the stretch, place your right hand on the left side of your head as it drops over towards the right shoulder. Don’t pull your head over; just allow the weight of your hand to softly guide it down. Perform this cycle 7 to 10 times per side before returning to centre. (1)

Cupping: what is it and should I get it?

Ancient Chinese cupping

You may have seen the dark, bruise coloured circles on the backs of the Olympic athletes at the current games in Rio. Many of you may be wondering what they are or have heard from the commentators and media articles about this ‘new’ treatment the athletes are receiving called cupping.

What is cupping and where does it come from?
Cupping is not something new. Early records of cupping have existed since ancient Egypt around 1500 BC. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, prescribed cupping. The Chinese have been using cupping dating back to 281 AD. The British were using cupping by the 1800’s with observation of Hippocrates writings. However, with the rise of scientific medicine, the practice of cupping has declined in the West in the last century, until a recent resurgence from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners practicing here in the West and other physical therapists using it to aid in soft tissue therapies.

The method of cupping uses a cup with vacuum created by a flame, pump or suction applied to the skin. Animal horns, bamboo, hollowed out wood or clay, even shells have been used for cupping practices throughout history. The cups used nowadays are most commonly made from glass, plastic or silicone.

How does it work?
TCM practitioners use cupping to move energy and correct internal imbalances, as well as to clear the effects of external injury and climatic influences such as the cold.1 In myotherapy, remedial massage and other physical therapies the cups are used to stretch the underlying tissues such as muscle and fascia.

What is fascia?
Myers (2014) says that while everyone learns something about bones and muscles, the origin and disposition of the fascinating fascial net that unites them is less widely understood, although that is gradually changing.2

Pith acts like fascia

Connective tissue is an apt description of fascia as its web-like structure binds every cell in the body to it’s neighbour.3 Imagine the pith in a mandarin, how it sticks to each segment and holds the segments to each other, and the skin to the flesh of the fruit. In very basic terms, this is what fascia is like.

It is primarily made up of collagen and keeps our muscles and organs where they should be. It also helps transport proteins and nutrients around the body as well as supporting the circulatory and nervous systems.

‘In short muscle is elastic, fascia is plastic’

Fascia is different to muscle in that, when stretched it won’t easily ‘recoil’ to it’s original form. Stretched quickly, it will tear. Stretched slowly it will warp and deform. In short muscle is elastic, fascia is plastic.4 Over time fascia will however, lay new fibres to rebind. This is what western, or modern, cupping aims to facilitate This is called myofascial release. Myofascial release can be achieved manually, with a slow, deliberate massage technique, heat and compression but the suction of the cups lifts and separates the muscle fibres and surrounding connective tissue in a way that cannot be achieved manually. It also increases the blood flow around the restricted muscle to help restore its function.

Australian TCM practitioner and modern cupping pioneer, Bruce Bentley says “Judging from what we can see and feel, we can suppose that the various layers of the skin and the fat beneath are drawn inside the cup, together with a positive tension exerted on the underlying fascia”. He goes on to say “we can presume therefore that the suction effect and the drawing out and elevation of these tissues facilitates an increase of local blood supply to the immediate area, which in turn implies an enhanced metabolic uptake of oxygen and feed of nutrients to those parts. It therefore relaxes and reduces pain [caused by] congestion and contracture”.5

Cupping works fast, with minimal pain to re-knit the connective tissues with a ‘trickle down’ effect to underlying muscle tissues, circulatory and nervous systems and perhaps even organs.

But what are those ‘bruises’?
Bruce Bentley maintains that a cupping mark is not bruising but the physical outcome of pathogens, toxins, blockages and impurities (waste products) that are an undesirable presence in the body.6

MediNet defines a bruise as an injury of the soft tissues that results in breakage of the local capillaries and leakage of red blood cells. In the skin it can be seen as a reddish-purple discoloration that does not blanch when pressed. When a bruise fades, it becomes green and brown, as the body metabolizes the blood cells in the skin. It is best treated with local application of a cold pack immediately after injury.7

However, when tested, the composition of the dark pigmentation left from cupping was found to be ‘old blood’, stagnant blood in the tight muscle fibres.8 Blood that is not moving, the more it thickens, congeals and darkens. TCM also recognises the different colours, shape, temperature and texture of the marks as a diagnostic tool to signify varying pathogens or deficiencies within the body.

Rest assured the marks left by cups are painless, they do not feel like bruising and fade within a few days to a few weeks, depending on how dark they are. I also have observed that clients who have regular cupping tend to mark less and less.

What is the difference between the different types of cups?

L to R: plastic pump cups, silicone cups, glass cups with aspirator suction pump, plastic suction pump with magnets, glass

There are many and varied types of cups. Glass, plastic suction pump, rubber, silicone, glass with a vacuum pump, plastic with a vacuum pump and magnets. The most common used by physical therapists are the glass, plastic suction pump or the silicone cups.

The glass cups are considered the traditional cups, largely used by TCM practitioners. They are used by some physical therapists too. The vacuum is created by placing a fueled flame, usually a cotton wool ball doused in methylated spirits, into the cup for a second or two. The flame is removed and the cup is quickly placed on the oiled skin. The heated air in the cup then cools to create the suction, the oil on the skin acts as the seal to the vacuum.

Flame to create vacuum in cup

It does not feel hot on the skin. Often clients expect it to feel warm and are surprised that the glass is cool. The wide lips on the glass cups feel smooth on the skin. Depending on how much suction is created, the cup can be left where it’s placed, or moved around to massage with. The suction with the glass cups is often strong and tends to leave strong marks, like the ones you might have seen on Michael Phelps at the Olympics.

There is no exact way of measuring the suction on these cups and it takes some experience before a practitioner can judge the amount of suction the flame will create.

Plastic pump cups are often used by myotherapists and some massage therapists. They are fast and easy to use as there is no need for a flame and the amount of suction is easily controlled via the pump. They can be used static or moved to massage with also. They tend not to mark as much as the glass cups but can leave a slight pinkish circle where the cup is placed or a strip where the cup is moved.

Silicone cups are becoming more and more popular among massage therapists and other physical therapists due to their ease of use, durability and gentleness on the client. Suction is created by squeezing the cup and placed on the skin. Suction can be created without oil but seals better with a little bit of lubricant and the cups can be massaged with. This technique is especially good for myofascial release. These cups are not as strong as the glass or plastic pump cups, and therefore leave very little marking on the skin.

What are the contraindications of cupping?
The cupping contraindications are similar to that of massage. Cupping cannot be performed on skin that is broken, has acne, rash or other contagious skin disease. Cupping on pregnant women should be considered with caution, not to the soft tissue areas of the abdomen or lower back. Although I have seen good results on the sore hips of pregnant clients. Cupping shouldn’t be performed on existing bruising as it can be uncomfortable, although I have experimented on myself with the silicone cups to see if it move the bruising out quicker, which it did quite successfully I might say.

Are there other types of cupping?
Facial cupping for skin rejuvenation, headache, sinus and TMJ disorder relief; cupping to reduce stretch marks, scarring and cellulite all exist.

Wet cupping or Hijama, is an Arabic tradition. It is where an incision is made on the skin and the cup is placed over the incision to draw the blood out for therapeutic purposes. This practice is not used by physical therapists and has a risk of infection.

If you are considering myotherapy or massage for a chronic injury or muscular tension, consider trying some cupping with your physical therapy. It is a fast and effective way to mend soft tissue and alleviate muscular pain.

 


  1. Bently, B., Cupping, viewed 11th of August, 2016 <http://www.healthtraditions.com.au/course-details/cupping.htm>
  2. Myers, T 2014, Anatomy Trains – Myofascial Meridians for Manual & Movement Therapists, Elsevier Health Sciences, London
  3. Myers, T 2014, Anatomy Trains – Myofascial Meridians for Manual & Movement Therapists, Elsevier Health Sciences, London
  4. Myers, T 2014, Anatomy Trains – Myofascial Meridians for Manual & Movement Therapists, Elsevier Health Sciences, London
  5. Bentley, B., ‘Modern Cupping’, The Lantern Vol 10-3, pp.15
  6. Bentley, B., ‘A Cupping Mark is Not a Bruise’, The Lantern Vol 12-2, pp.16
  7.  Definition of a Bruise, viewed 11th of August, 2016 <http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2541>
  8. Bentley, B., ‘A Cupping Mark is Not a Bruise’, The Lantern Vol 12-2, pp.16

Lymphedema: What is it, and How Can Manual Lymphatic Drainage Help?

imageWhat is lymphedema?

Lymphedema is the pooling of lymph fluid, due to an obstruction or blockage of the lymphatic system. The lymph vessels drain the fluid from tissues throughout the body and allow immune cells to travel where they are needed. A blockage may occur due to illness, damage or removal of the vessels or nodes of the system.*

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom is chronic swelling, usually of the extremities, limb or area where the obstruction has occurred. Other symptoms include a feeling of heaviness or tightness in the area, restricted range of motion, increased occurrence of infection and hardening or thickening of the skin. Some may also see a change in texture in the tissues of the affected area, such as an ‘orange-peel’ like effect where the fluid pools.

What treatment can help lymphedema?

Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a physical therapy technique that is aids the natural drainage of the lymph fluid. The technique includes gentle massage in the area of the healthy lymph nodes, followed by a technique that is a gentle, circular, stretching of the skin motion that aims to push fluid out of the area of swelling, across to the healthy lymph nodes. It is quite different to normal muscular massage and is a slow and gentle technique. Other treatments include compression, range of motion exercises and in some extreme cases, surgery.

What can I do to help reduce lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a chronic disease that usually requires lifelong management. In some cases, lymphedema improves with time however, some swelling is often permanent. Drinking lots of water can aid flushing of the fluids, wearing compression socks or sleeves and elevating the affected area above heart height will all help reduce swelling. Gentle exercise such as walking, breathing exercises, self-drainage techniques and specific corrective exercises to the affected area may be prescribed by your physical therapist.

*If vessels or nodes have been removed due to surgery it is recommended you consult a MLD Vodder Technique specialist.

We service Massage clients from Malvern East and the surrounding areas, including: Chadstone, Malvern, Ashwood, Glen Iris, Caulfield North