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Cascade Quarterly News Archives
Autumn 2009 - Volume 3, Issue 3

Feature Article: Taming your Tension

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In this issue:

1) Feature Article: Taming your Tension
2) The Culprits
3) Massage to the Rescue
4) Don't Trap your Tension
5) About Cascade Massage Therapy

1) Feature Article: Taming your Tension

Muscle tension is like a car that's idling too fast. The car is revved up and working hard but nothing useful is happening. There's more wear and tear on the motor. Not only that, but the motor is burning more fuel and creating more pollution.

With muscle tension your muscles are working hard, but are not doing anything that's useful. The tension doesn't help you move and it certainly doesn't make your muscles stronger. It doesn't really accomplish anything at all.

It does, however, cause a lot of wear and tear on your body. It strains the tendons that hold your muscles to your bones. It pulls the joints tighter together which not only causes horrible grinding and crunching sounds, but also causes the cartilage in your joints to wear out. The tension limits your movement, interferes with your co-ordination and may make you more accident-prone. The tense muscles burn up the fuel in your muscles and make you feel tired. The also create the equivalent of car exhaust - toxic waste products (called metabolites) that fatigue your muscles and make them feel sore and achy.

You know from experience - tension is not good.

It's important that to keep tension under control. Not only will you feel more comfortable, but you'll also prevent a lot of problems from occurring: from kinks in your neck to early arthritis. To manage your tension, it helps to know what causes it.

2) The Culprits

Stress is one of the major sources of muscle tension. When under stress, you become like a turtle trying to pull its head into its shell. Your shoulders round forward and lift up as your head pulls back. If your stress level is high, you may actually notice your shoulders around your ears. More often than not, the stress isn't quite so significant and the shoulder muscles simply tighten up.

Just sitting or staying still for periods of time will also cause your muscles to tighten up. By remaining static, you are in a sense training your muscles to lock your back or neck in a certain posture. When you begin to move, your muscles remain tense in an effort to maintain your position. It takes some time for the muscles to realize that they can let go and relax. The longer you sit without moving, the more you train your muscles to lock into position and the longer it takes to release them.

In looking at the way that tension is created, you can see that the areas that are most vulnerable to tension are your neck, shoulders and back. Although tension can develop in any muscle in your body, these are the areas that are most commonly affected.

3) Massage to the Rescue

Massage plays an important role in helping you deal with your tension. Your massage therapist, like a mechanic, can adjust how fast your "muscle motors" are idling.

Massage has a twofold action. First, it helps induce a relaxation response in your body. This reduces the common defensive reactions in your body, including that turtle-in-the-shell action of your neck muscles. Relaxation causes your brain and nervous system to slow down and this in turn lowers the tension level of all the muscles in your body.

Secondly, with massage your muscles are pulled and stretched. This physically releases the muscle. In addition, the sensations that your muscles feel, both conscious and subconscious, give your brain information about the level of tension that exists in your muscles. This helps your nervous system to adjust your muscles to a normal level of tone.

The wonderful thing about massage is that its effect on tension is almost instantaneous. You feel the tension leaving your body immediately.

However, don't expect long-lasting results from just one massage. Although this may happen, factors like stress and a sedentary lifestyle are likely to perpetuate your tension. For this reason regular treatments are important.

When you start to receive massage therapy, you may experience some discomfort as your body gets used to receiving treatment. It is important that you communicate with your RMT in order to ensure that you are comfortable – both the pressure and the types of techniques used can easily be adjusted for you.

If you find that your muscles are always tender when you visit your massage therapist, perhaps it would be helpful for you to consider having more frequent treatments. As well, this is a clue that it would be useful for you to make some changes in your daily activities in order to help better manage your tension.

Regular massage treatments will not only reduce your tension, but they will re-teach your muscles to maintain that lower level of tension and to recover from stress more quickly.

Once your muscles learn what it's like to be relaxed, you can reduce the frequency of your massage treatments. At that point, you can use massage more as a maintenance tool and schedule treatments for the year, just as you schedule regular tune-ups for your car.

How often do you need a tune up? As a general rule, many therapists suggest monthly maintenance treatments. However, there are many factors that determine your need for massage. Since your massage therapist knows you and your body, it's best to ask for specific recommendations.

Neck Rolls

4) Don't Trap your Tension

One of the areas most likely to get tense is the shoulders. A large muscle in this area that is often discussed is called the Trapezius - often referred to as the "traps". It's an easy name to remember because this is one of the muscles that traps your tension.

Do these Shoulder Rolls to release tension in your neck and shoulders. You CAN help prevent tension from building up in this muscle: If you are sitting or standing still for any significant period of time, be sure to move the muscle through a full range of motion once in awhile. We suggest the 20/20 Rule: For every twenty minutes that you are inactive, spend twenty seconds moving.

This helps ensure that your muscles don't have the opportunity to lock into any particular position.

Use the two simple exercises in this newsletter to bring your traps through a full range of motion and to keep your muscles relaxed and tension-free. 

Do these Shoulder Rolls to release tension in your neck and shoulders. Lift your shoulders up toward your ears. Then slowly roll your shoulders in
 a big circle moving them back, down, forward and up. Repeat several times and then reverse directions.

If you have specific health concerns consult your medical doctor.

The information in this newsletter is educational only and is not intended to replace the advice of your personal health care providers.

5) About Cascade Massage Therapy

My Approach

I bring over 18 years of bodywork experience and education to the massage table!

I offer you diverse and comprehensive massage therapy sessions. Your treatment goals are foremost and your needs will be heard and addressed. I utilize both traditional and alternative treatment techniques, and recommend self care tips and exercise options that evolve with your individual healing process. My intention is to be a facilitator in the cascade of your healing process and health maintenance. I believe that within the human body is the desire and ability to be well, and through bodywork, I serve to act as a catalyst for this process.

This is your time - I encourage you to enjoy the stillness of your session, and sense the changes occurring in your body while we work - you don’t need to be entertaining or start a conversation; that being said, please recognize that I do not read minds. I expect my clients to participate in his or her experience and give feedback when there is any discomfort during the treatment.

Cascade Massage Therapy is focused on education and prevention. It is important that you know what you can do to help prevent stress, tension, and pain when you are not with me. I allow for time at the end of our session to converse, suggest self care tips and exercises that would be beneficial for you, and answer any questions that you may have.

I believe that prolonged stress, whether environmental, physical or emotional is a primary factor in dis-ease and a true obstacle to healing.

Therefore, I welcome you to a peace-filled and relaxing environment for you to experience relief from chronic pain.

Sonja Rawlings, RMT
1601 – 30th Avenue
Vernon, BC V1T 2A3



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Office located in Vernon, BC, Canada. Serving Vernon, Coldstream,
Lavington, Armstrong, Lumby, Enderby, Salmon Arm, Sicamous, Chase,
Falkland, Kelowna and the rest of the Okanagan.