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FIND OUT WHAT IT IS - FIND OUT WHAT IS NOT
FIND OUT WHAT WORKS - FIND OUT WHAT DOESN’T WORK
Is “cramp” cramping your style?
Well let’s cut the BS and look at how to fix it
In this edition of the blog, we look at the blight of many runners, swimmers and cyclists. In order to ensure we are not misleading anyone at this early stage, we are talking in this blog about EXERCISE INDUCED CRAMP. This is a slightly different phenomenon than cramping while at rest. We would also point out that there can be medical reasons that can cause persistent cramping and we therefore recommend that anyone troubled by cramp should seek opinion of their doctor as a first port of call.
Ok, onto cramping. This is defined by the OED as “a painful contraction of muscle or muscles”. Anyone who has suffered cramp can testify to the painful part! It is a phenomenon that team mates, friends and colleagues will have an array of weird and wonderful strategies for you to try to alleviate. I would predict that most of these are unpleasant and probably didn’t work! Often most this will involve adding salt to your water bottle, buying expensive sports drinks/gels, squeezing into base-layer garments and various other click-bait products. Well, I am sorry to say there is not much evidence for many of these strategies, mainly because they are based on an outdated understanding of what causes cramp. So, let us take a look at some common theories and see where they trip up.
1. Drink more water
A common theory as not drinking enough when exercising and the associated water loss from the body, is proposed to cause cramp. Well, that might not be true. We undeniably lose water when we sweat. This varies between individuals and training sessions. A good way of tracking this is to weigh yourself before and after exercise. You should be aiming not to have lost any weight. But not because of cramp risk, more for performance and general well-being. Runners in the Comrades Ultramarathon in South Africa are a common population to study due to the nature of the event and associated conditions. When investigated for water loss, runners that over-hydrated were more prone to cramp than runners that were dehydrated. The significance of this is not strong as the statistical analysis is weak but there is certainly no trend towards dehydrated athletes suffering more cramping episodes than hydrated.
2. Put a pinch of salt in your water / use isotonic sports drinks
Another common piece of advice. It is not the water loss that causes cramp but the loss of electrolytes like potassium and sodium which is also a component of sweat. As a result, the Powerade and Lucozade’s of our world have created a global market in expensive sports drinks often marketed at replacing these electrolytes. Well, I am sorry to say that there is not a huge amount of evidence behind this either. Why? Well we lose more water than we do sweat. Therefore, the concentration of what is left in our body actually contains MORE electrolytes. So, we can park that idea as well.
But what really is happening in our body?
Well, like so much in science we do not exactly know in truth. However, what we do know is this:
1. Cramp often occurs in muscles that cross two joints
2. Cramp often occurs toward the latter stages of an event / race / training session.
That brings us to the most likely cause of cramp – FATIGUE.
Without going into the bamboozling micro-anatomy of the body, I am going to use an analogy that I use in clinic that I think explains things best. Imagine a giant see saw with 10 people on each side of equal weight. On one side we have ten people who represent the messages from the brain telling the muscle to contract. On the other side we have ten people that represent the muscle’s ability to stop this contraction when you have finished using the muscle. Under normal circumstances, the ten on the left can push the ten on the right and the saw bounces back and forth with no issue. The muscle works well.
When we tire, the body’s ability to slow down and stop muscle contraction is affected. Let’s imagine now our seesaw with the same ten people on the left side sending signals down the muscle. But we now only have 5 people on the right side to counter balance this. This will mean the seesaw may not totally return to the ground on the right side due to the weight on the left side. At this critical point where the seesaw cannot return to the ground, we cannot relax the muscle and it goes into an involuntary spasm – or cramp.
Blah blah, boring stuff blah. I have issues cramping, what can I do about it!
1. Do not outrun your training.
The majority of exercise induced cramping happens when the muscle fatigues. Therefore, make sure your training replicates your goal. Be wary of increased distance and speed above what you are trained to as this will predispose you to cramp.
2. Work on your muscle length.
The right side of the seesaw can be topped up by ensuring your muscles are not too tight. Therefore stretching, foam rolling and, you guessed it, SPORTS MASSAGE can be good methods of working on this. Especially muscles that cross two joints; hip flexors, hamstrings, calves.
3. Sometimes things work on some people!
If you have found a benefit in calf guards, Gatorade, salty water or chilli gum then great! Science is rarely black and white. Somethings work for one but not all. If you have found something that works, keep doing it! Just beware of false expensive prophesies!
Yes, golf IS a sport. Yes, golfers are sportsmen and sportswomen. Yes, they should consider sports massage.
Don’t believe the haters when they say, golf is not a past time. It is a legitimate sport with legitimate demands on the body. Golfers are very injury prone and these niggles can severely hamper enjoyment and performance.
We are lucky enough to work at one of the best golf facilities in The North East and we work with a lot of golfers, so we are going to feature golf in our latest blog and make the case why golfers should be coming to see us during the season!
Benefits of massage therapy for golfers
1. Injury prevention
We all know a golfer with a bad back, or knee or hip. Golf involves a lot of bending and twisting. Repeatedly. Over several hours. This alone over the course of a season can have a cumulative effect on the joints, muscles and tendons. Coming in to clinic during the season can help to prevent this build up and keep you moving well throughout the season.
2. Improve your game
Having worked with recreational and semi-professional golfers in clinic, a common finding is that often the body is not capable of doing what they are asking / being asked to do. It may be that in a lesson, the client is being asked to find a body / arm / hip position at points of the swing. Sometimes this position is not physically possible due to tightness, previous injuries etc. The good news is, these are easily found and fixed. Therefore you should find a massage improvement in your game.
3. Recover quicker
We have all felt those stiff legs and back after a game. Golf is more physically demanding than non-golfers give it credit for. The average distance walked in 18holes of golf is around 9km, sometimes with a golf bag on your back. Often up and down hills. Let alone all the extra couple kilometres looking for lost balls! A session with your friendly local massage therapist can help negate these effects meaning you are nice a fresh for the next medal, midweek bounce game or trip to the range.
4. Supercharge your warm-up/cool-down
I am going out on a limb here and I am going to say the majority of us perhaps do not do much more than a few “club behind the back” twists and half swings to get going. Probably even less at the end of the game. Well the good news is that by adding even just a couple specific exercises before and after can make a huge difference (although we would advocate something a little more comprehensive!). Coming in to see us and finding out what your “go to areas” are will mean we can keep on top of them and shave a few shots off your round.
Running Repairs vs Breakdowns
Whatever your goal this year, an event or achieving a new PB or just to get fit, running and walking remains one of the cheapest and most addictive ways to keep fit. What is always a difficult conversation in clinic though is when we have a client come in and things have started to go wrong. Tight bits have turned into sore bits and now they are getting in the way of training. It may mean these clients are advised that taking some time off training is required while the injury heals or restricting the type of training they are doing. It may mean their goals for this season are unattainable. Heartbreaking when so much time and effort has gone into the training. We want to try and avoid those conversations this year so we have written a troubleshooting guide to keep you on track. We would rather be helping you towards your goal than fixing something when it is too late!
Everybody has an area of the body that may require special attention more than other areas. This may be dictated by previous injuries, your occupation or the activity you have chosen to participate in. For some it may be the lower back, for others the achilles/calf region. Having some go-to exercises, stretches, foam roller routines etc. for these areas will keep the niggles at bay and keep you on track. What if you do not know what your go-to areas are or how to keep on top of them? Well that brings us to no2.
2. The role of the Massage Therapist
A good Sports Therapist will be able to, through a range of quick tests combined with your medical and sporting history, be able to find areas of concern or areas that may require improvement. A lot of running and walking related injuries can be caused by changes in muscle length and if caught and recognised early enough, can be avoided. We call this PREHAB.
A review with a sports therapist throughout your training journey can be beneficial in helping you recover from training blocks, prevent injury and ultimately improve your performance by ensuring your body moves optimally. For some this may be fortnightly, others monthly. This can be done on an ad-hoc basis when your self-maintenance does not feel like it is enough.
The most common way people at this time of year injure themselves is doing too much too soon. A good rule of thumb to use is the 10% rule. Try not in the course of a week to increase the distance or times of your walk or run by more than 10%. This gives your body a chance to adapt and protects structures like tendons from being overloaded. Remember to build in rest days to your schedule too. Your body will enjoy too many consecutive days of training without a chance to recover.
I realise this is going to sound like that PE teacher or sports coach from your youth but some health and fitness advice does not change over the years. Preparing your body for activity and then recovering afterwards is the cornerstone to remaining injury free. A good dynamic warm-up pre-activity and a good static stretching session post-activity is the current consensus on what is most effective.
We are looking forward again this year to helping current and new clients achieve their goals this year; whatever they may be. It got us thinking, how can we make sure that our clients get as much as possible from their session.
1. What are your goals?
Do you want to relax? Are you training for something? Are you struggling with something in particular? Let us know so we can make your session as focussed and individualised as possible.
Don’t be afraid to tell us about the pressure being used. Too much, we can back off. Not enough, we can be meaner if it is appropriate! We are only as good as your feedback.
3. Wear suitable clothing
We can do more if you think ahead and wear clothing appropriate for treating the desired area. Undress only to your comfort level, we can modify our techniques as appropriate. Generally speaking sports apparel is easy to work around. Sports Bras (straps that don’t move) and leggings (not able to move around) are our nemesis though at may mean you cannot get the session were expecting. If in doubt, ask us please :)
4. Arrive on time
As mentioned above, the quality of your session is partly based on what you tell us. If you are late and we have to hurry our chat and assessment, we may not be as effective and you will also get less time on the table!
5. Are you comfortable?
Is your face sore, would you prefer another pillow, are you too hot/cold? Let us know. We can do our best to make you more comfortable. It is important. The more you relax ,the more we can work with the muscles etc.
6. Help us help you away from the table
The benefits and longevity of the results can be boosted with stretching, foam rolling, training tweaks and nutrition information. The benefits can be stunted and things can regress quicker if you don’t do a wee bit of self maintenance work. After all, we want you to be pain free and healthy all the time, not just for the 3 days post-massage!
The Detox fad in Massage Therapy
Its January and this year more than most, we have been hearing about all the weird and wonderful ways people are starting their health kicks / fads this year. Once again, the buzz word seems to be “detox”. Whether it is juice, teas, Aloe Vera and everything in-between. We have some opinions on these methods and products but since we are not a company who specialises in nutrition, we will not go on a rant about them!
However, it does raise the topic of detoxification which is a commonly hyped benefit of massage therapy. It also seems to raise it’s ugly head in January as therapists attempt to jump on this health-fad bandwagon to increase footfall in the traditionally quiet January period.
Well lets get this straight, any therapist proposing to be helping to detox your body either
- Does not have a good understanding of human anatomy
- Does not have a good understanding on the effects of massage therapy and techniques
- Chooses to ignore these and regurgitate common misconceptions on the benefits of massage therapy
Oh oh...careful of them toxins!
My first point regarding detoxification is what exactly are we trying to rid the body of. What do we have, specifically in January that is so harmful that the body cannot deal with of it’s own accord. The kidneys and liver are the detoxification centres of the human body and do a very good job dealing with any waste products of daily living. I would be interested to hear what answer your therapist would give when you ask them what specifically they are trying to eliminate from your body.
Don't be a victim of massage robbery!
Secondly, lets presume there is a toxin that requires special attention from your therapist to eliminate. How is your therapist going to achieve this? Often, a therapist will propose that the massage will increase blood flow, hence “flushing” these products out your system. Well research has shown (Sefton et al 2010) that massage therapy is ineffective in stimulating blood flow beyond the level of the skin. Wiltshire et al (2010) even proposed in their study that massage therapy actually impaired the removal of waste product Lactic Acid post-exercise. I am gonna put it out there, the only thing your therapist is detoxing with their Detox Massage is the elimination of money from your piggy bank!
The only form of massage that has any scientific evidence that points towards it’s effectiveness in this area is Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) (Vairo et al 2009). There are various studies that show increased lymph flow and therefore the efficiency of the system in the body designed to eliminate waste products. Fortunately for us, as a company that tries to be as evidence-based as possible, we have Lara Jordon on our staff that specialises in this area.
Massage therapy has a number of fantastic benefits but I am sorry, the evidence suggests detoxification is not one of them! If you are looking for improved mood, sleep, reduced pain, anxiety, lymphodema and stress as part of your January “new you”, then get in to see your friendly local therapist. Just don’t be suckered in to shelling out your hard earned pennies on myths and misconceptions.
Happy New Year from all at ASM.
Apologies for the Game of Thrones reference that may be lost on some, but the battle with the cold and dark is not just reserved for the Men of the Night's Watch. Aberdonians, adopted or born and bred must also battle through the long dark days which can have a marked effect on how we feel. Here are some top tips from teamASM on how to keep yourself going through the Winter.
1. The dreaded winter flu
When the seasons change, it is a fact that we are more susceptible to colds and flu. We all know that one person who sniffles from October to March. Well this can often be because the colder weather subconsciously changes your behaviours. Remember to continue to eat a diet rich in vitamins, especially vitamin C. Continue to exercise, this helps stimulate your lymphatic system to remove waste products and infection from your body.
What can ASM do help this along? Well our Manual Lymphatic Drainage service can also help to kick start your lymphatic system that works on overtime during the Winter. It is recommended you get ahead of the game and book in for you first session before the Winter really sets in. It helps put your defences on red alert. Check out our MLD service here
2. WINTER NIGGLE BUSTING TIPS
Often with the colder temperatures, we tend to feel more niggles and stiffness. This may be because it is harder to warm-up for activities, old injuries feel worse or just from subconsciously wrapping up against the elements we feel tight in those problematic postural hot spots. What can you do to help?
- Massage Therapy. Obviously being a massage therapy blog, we advocate using a good massage therapist at this time of year more frequently than you may do in the Summer. You can have areas that are currently a problem as well as areas that may become an issue dealt with before they become debilitating.
- HEAT. Using things like heat packs or wraps can be great on those areas you begin to feel or know are problematic at this time of year. Hot showers, saunas and jacuzzis are not only relaxing but the heat will help soothe aching areas. We offer a Hot Stones Massage Therapy Service that combines the benefits of heat with massage. If you have never had one, you have to check it out!
-Extend your warm-ups. It is very tempting at this time of year to do less warm-ups, especially when you do your activity outdoors. Who wants to stand in the rain any longer than they have to, right? Elements of your warm-up can and should be done indoors but make sure you take a bit more time to warm-up before beginning any higher intensity work and then those legs and backs will stay in fine fettle.
3. find a way to get some sunlight in your life
One of the biggest things that can effect your health and mood is the lack of sunlight. We just don't get enough at this time of year. There are a few strategies you can use to help make sure this is minimised
- Worship the sun. Being mindful of the dangers of the sun go without saying. Please do not think we are advocating getting scorched throughout the winter. However, when the sun does come out, try to make sure you go outside and make the most of it. Go for a walk, leave the car behind, get some fresh air. It makes a big difference.
-VitaminD. Supplementing your diet with vitamins that are created as result of sunlight can help also. There are natural ways to ensure you achieve good levels of VitD in your diet including green leafy vegetables.
-Sunlight alarm clocks. It sucks to get up when it is dark outside. Sometimes the body struggles with this. There is a lot of people advocating the use of alarm clocks that mimic a sunrise and sun set. This is thought to help your body wind down, achieve a better sleep and then slowly come round before your alarm goes off. We are going to try one ourselves this Winter and we'll keep you posted on how we get on with it!
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The nights are drawing in, the mornings are cold and dark! For many that means the onset of the Autumnal/Winter cold/flu season, altered sleep patterns and a general feeling of increased fatigue. Why is this and what can you do to combat it?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is the clinical term and most serious version of the "Winter blues" that affects around 2 million people in the UK. However, there are many other less serious and more common versions of the effect that the change in seasons has on the body. There are many potential causes and a range of things you can do to help yourself at this time of year.
1. Keep active, keep exercising.
If it is end of your season, you have finished the push for the bikini-body or the weather gets in the way of your weekend pursuits it is important to keep up a level of physical activity at this time of year. It may be as simple as the NHS recommended 60 min walk everyday, if possible in the middle of the day. This will keep the release of happy hormones flowing and give you a little more exposure to sunlight that is so important in regulating your sleep and mood.
For advice on walking for exercise see the NHS guide on walking for health here.
2. Use heat.
Warm foods and drinks, clothes and shoes are really important for staving off the Winter blues. Microwaveable heat pads, hot water bottles and products like these are staples of our advice in clinic at this time of year for their benefits in prolonging the effects your session. Our Hot Stone Massage treatments really come into their own at this time of year for working on those tight muscles, relaxation and combating the chills of this time of year too.
3. Exposure to light.
Often some of the effects of the Winter blues can be due to the climate we live in. Exposure to the sun in the Winter in the Northern Hemisphere can be really difficult at times! There are a number of products that can help combat this on the market from light boxes to alarm clocks that emit light around the time of waking that may be worth a try, although can be quite expensive.
Of course, one of the easiest ways of ticking this box is to try and make sure when we do have daylight (allbeit it seems some days that does not happen) that we get outside and see it!
4. Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)
MLD is a specialist treatment that we offer in clinic and is targeted at the a system in the body that has an important role in your bodies immune system. This time of year is the most stressful time to your immune system as it is bombarded with winter bugs and suchlike. The lymphatic system cleans up all these bugs and waste products and takes them away for removal. Inefficiency of this system is thought to be one of the reasons that we may feel for months on end that we have a cold or a re rundown all Winter. MLD treatments at this time of year kickstart this system, boost it's effectiveness and make sure we are in as good a position as we can be to win the war of the sniffles! Check out our page on the service here.
5. Eat healthy
We don't put ourselves out there as nutrition experts at ASM, we leave that to our friends in the ASM family that we recommend on our website. However, undoubtedly ensuring you are fuelling your body with nutritious foods at this time of year will help. The temptation is to fall in the trap of eating comfort and unhealthy foods. Everything in moderation but continuing fruits and veg is a good plan.
Hope that helps. Lots of easy ways to help yourself and if you want to, we are here with some specialist services to help out. As always, any specific advice on your symptoms or condition then we are happy to discuss.
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Unless you are living on a different planet, it is hard to have not come across or try the craze, Pokemon Go. From young to old, it has attracted a great deal of interest but also a great deal of negativity. It is this that has sparked a somewhat spontaneous blogpost from us here at ASM on those "hating on" those playing the game as the kids would say.
As a company that promotes health and well-being, we are wholeheartedly throwing our support behind the game, and here is why...
1. Firstly, lets address and put to one side the safety concerns. As well as supporting people to try the game if they want, we are urging people to be vigilant of their surroundings at all times. This means traffic as well as theft related advice on walking around with your smart phone so visible. Risks are inherent in all past times, road cycling, mountaineering etc. so lets not focus on this but be mindful of it.
2. In this modern lifestyle, particularly in youth communities, of increased sedentary habits, why oh why should we be discouraging our youngsters from going outside and exercising. Consider an average day in the life of an average school-going child. Rise, breakfast (in sitting), lift/bus to school (in sitting), classes all day (in sitting), bus/lift home (in sitting), leisure activity i.e. Xbox, TV, texting, homework (in sitting, sitting, sitting, sitting). If any or regular parts of that day can be changed by walking around playing a game and exercising then it gets the thumbs up from me! Exercising aside, if our youth are going out and engaging in their community in a positive way, socialising, being creative, imaginative then I challenge any "hater" out there to tell me why that is a bad thing. Think about orienteering, treasure hunting, easter egg hunting from your own youth. This is no different, just a more modern and equally, if not more, engaging version!
3. I know full well that this game is not only being played by the youth. Yes it is a game that involves capturing mythical creatures and will be aimed more at younger markets but that doesn't mean us adults cannot enjoy it. If this is getting people out of their car, walking to the shops/work or out in the evening with or with out friends/colleagues/children, then that cannot be sneered at by those "haters". This is no different than recent Fitbit crazes of trying to hit 10,000 steps per day. It is a way of encouraging and rewarding exercise. Exactly what our modern lifestyles need and when it is put like this, negativity of the stigma of playing a game should pale into insignificance.
So we at ASM say, if it is for you - awesome. Enjoy it, be proud of exercising, getting some fresh air and making your lifestyle more healthy. Embrace the fun and the challenge. Do it safely. Young or old, don't be put off by those who do not understand the greater picture! For those that snigger and sneer at those people out there having fun and being a little healthier - please encourage any changes someone is making to their health and well-being, Pokemon or not. Even if you don't understand it or it does not interest you personally, be supportive to those around you that are playing, don't be a "hater"! Go out and enjoy the walk with someone who is playing. Enjoy the walk just as a walk if it is not your thing and you can benefit too.
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