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How do I resolve shoulder/neck /back/hip issues? Or Sitting -The New Dilemma

Posted on: April 12th, 2018 by Mariano

Our lives have become sadly limited in terms of how and how much we use our bodies. Most of us do a lot of sitting, and it takes a toll on our muscular and skeletal health. No wonder excessive sitting has been called “the new smoking”.

In addition, no matter how we move them, we primarily use muscles in the front of our bodies – arms, shoulders, chest – for 14-16 hours a day. This causes certain muscles to shorten and draw the shoulders into a forward position in which the mechanics of the shoulder girdle don’t function well. And, sooner or later, there are other consequences.

  • The head is pulled forward. 
  • The back muscles become lazy and are sore at the least effort.
  • Rib joints start to pop and ache between the shoulder blades, and our posture suffers. 
  • The pelvis starts to tilt forward on one side, because we engage hip flexors and quadriceps more on our stronger leg, leading to SI joint problems.
  • Neck and shoulders start complaining, and tendinitis – inflammation caused by overuse and inappropriate mechanics in some of the muscle tendons in the shoulder – can follow.
  • Sore upper and mid or lower back, SIJ-area pain, sciatica, tension headaches, and even a frozen shoulder or carpal tunnel syndrome can develop. 

What’s the remedy?

Pain medication seems an easy answer, but it can and should be avoided, since it’s hard on the stomach and doesn’t address the cause. Effectively treating and healing these problems in the long term is achieved by correcting the cause, not just masking the symptoms.

I worked for 30 years as a physiotherapist in Germany before I came to Canada, and treating and resolving these issues has been my daily bread ever since.

 

Here is what works 

  • In the first session I do a posture assessment, finding the main areas of and causes for concern. Then I do a general whole body muscle reset called Bowen Therapy – a very gentle, relaxing, but efficient way to open short and tight muscles, helping the body to escape the posture that causes the pain and to come into realignment.  

 

  • Since sore neck/shoulders or hips are almost always involved, they get an extra, longer treatment called Cyriax Therapy. It’s a physio tendon technique for tendinitis with repetitive gentle friction over the sore shoulder (or forearm) tendons, causing them to release and cease aching.

 

  • A gentle shoulder or hip mobilization follows. In cases where muscles are tight, massage and cupping need to be done first. 

 

  • Another step for opening the tight short chest or hip muscles is visceral osteopathy, a release of deep fasciae and muscles in the chest or lower abdomen, followed by showing the client a very restful, relaxing stretch on a yoga bolster or a thinner roll, enabling the shoulders to drop back into the normal position. 

 

  • Sore/popped rib joints and the neck are eased with cranio-sacral therapy.

 

  • Finally, information on proper sitting and available props to create and support  healthy posture, stretches for shortened muscles like hip flexors and hamstrings, and strengthening exercises for weak muscles like upper and mid back and glutes, are offered and shared.

 

Obviously, this process takes several sessions and some time and patience. Establishing new habits like better posture takes a while – if you ever tried to write or brush your teeth with your “wrong” hand, you know what I mean – but it’s worth the effort. Our bodies work hard for us and they deserve to be treated kindly.

Anne Liebhart, Physiotherapist in Germany, RMT.

What is fascia and why it is important to a massage therapist?

Posted on: April 5th, 2018 by Mariano

By Hannah Zabolotniuk

The fascia

Fascia is the biological fabric that holds us together. It is a thin, tough, elastic type of connective tissue found between the layers of muscle fibres, between muscles, around organs and connected in a web throughout the entire body.

Many people hold stress in their muscles, causing the muscles to become contracted or inhibited. It is believed that fascia can create tight knots or adhesions that act as trigger points, constrict muscles, and decrease blood supply, causing pain and decreased range of motion.

How could a massage therapist help?

Massage therapists can help with a technique called Myofascial Release that uses sustained pressure to loosen and lengthen constricted fascia. It breaks down adhesions between the tissues and softens and re-aligns them, freeing up muscles and allowing easier and more effective movement. Myofascial Release can improve posture, ease areas of muscle tension and improve flexibility.

Movement and massage therapy play an important role in keeping connective tissue hydrated and mobile. When we are in similar postures for prolonged periods of time, such as sitting and working at a desk or on a computer, our bodies adapt to support these positions, and the fascia become tight if we do not undertake compensating movement or therapies.

Here are some key activities for fascia care:

  • stretch or move often
  • take quick breaks away from the computer to move more regularly throughout the day
  • stay hydrated
  • yoga
  • Thai massage
  • fascia stretch therapy
  • myofascial release therapy
  • foam rolling
  • massage therapy

 

Enjoy this video for more information about your fascia and what it looks like

Chinese New Year Tradition and advises for common cold symptoms.

Posted on: February 26th, 2018 by Mariano

Chinese New Year and the Year of the Dog

Happy new year everyone! (And not just the new year that started on January 1st). Happy Chinese (lunar) New Year too!

Unlike the Western new year we celebrate here in North America, which is based on the Gregorian calendar, Chinese New year is celebrated based on the lunar calendar. This means that the exact date of new years day differs from year to year, but usually occurs sometime between January 21 and February 20.

This year, Chinese New Year fell on February 16, 2018. Associated with each year is a Chinese zodiac animal and this year it’s the year of the dog. There are 12 Chinese zodiac animals so every 12 years, the cycle begins anew. This means that the last year of the dog was in 2006, and the next one will be in 2030. In addition to the 12 zodiac animals, there are also 5 elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) that are also attributed to the zodiacs. This year is the year of the Earth dog to be specific, and the last time we had an Earth dog year was 60 years ago in 1958!

According to Chinese astrology, people born under different zodiac animals tend to have different personality traits.

Year of the dog :

We all know that dogs are fiercely loyal, have a positive attitude, and an endless supply of love. People born in the year of the dog are said to share these traits. They are kind, honest, and easygoing, yet fight for what they believe in and they are always ready to lend a helping hand. However, they can also be stubborn and rigid in their beliefs. They can have difficulty communicating and may tend to become irritable and fall into pessimism when they feel doubt.

Additionally, Earth dogs in particular are extremely hardworking, disciplined, and never give up. Despite how focused they are on their goals, they will never compromise their values for anything. They believe that as long as they work hard towards their goal, they will succeed. Earth Dogs have a pure spirit and despite their stubbornness, they respect other people’s perspectives, believing in the “live and let live” philosophy. This separates them from other Dogs, who can tend to be more judgmental by nature.

Traditions:

Chinese New Year (CNY) is the biggest holiday celebrated in China and many other Asian countries. CNY is also called the Spring Festival and is a period of celebration lasting around 15 days (from the lunar New Year’s Eve to the 15th day of the first lunar month).

CNY is a time for families to get together and celebrate. There are many traditions and celebrations that are observed during this period such as lion dances and setting off firecrackers and fireworks. Red decorations are also put up all over the house to welcome in good luck and keep out evil spirits, and red pockets with “lucky money” are given out to children for prosperity in the coming year. A traditional reunion dinner is held on New Year’s Eve as a time to get together with the whole family.

Special foods are made and eaten at this time to ensure a prosperous new year. These foods are chosen due to their auspicious symbolism based on either their pronunciation or their appearance.

Foods and their meanings:

  • Noodles: Happiness and longevity – The long continuous strands of noodles represent long life.
  • Dumplings: Wealth – Dumplings resemble Chinese silver or gold ingots which were boat shaped instead of bar-shaped.
  • Spring rolls: Wealth – Similar in appearance to gold bars.
  • Fish: Increase in prosperity – There is a Chinese saying of “nian nian you yu”. “Nian年” means year, “you有” means to have, and “yu鱼” means fish. Therefore, this phrase translates to “having fish every year”. However, the word “yu余” with a different character but same sound, also means “having more than one needs every year” or “surplus”. So really, this phrase is used to wish people abundance and prosperity in the new year.
  • Nian Gao (glutinous rice cake): Higher income or status – The saying that accompanies this dish is “nian nian gao”. “Nian年”, as we saw from above, means year, and “gao糕” means cake. But “gao高” also means “high or tall” when written as a different character. Therefore, the phrase associated with this cake means wishing you an increase in income and status year after year.
  • Tangerines, oranges, and pomelos: Fullness and wealth – The Chinese name for tangerine, “cheng橙”, sounds identical to the word for success (成). A portion of the character for orange “ju桔”, has the word “ji吉” in it which means good luck. The Chinese word for pomelos is “you柚”, which is similar in sound to the word for “to have有”.
  • Yuan Xiao/Tang Yuan (glutinous sweet rice balls): Family togetherness – The shape of these glutinous rice balls are round, symbolizing harmony and family togetherness. These are mainly eaten during Lantern Festival which is the last day of the New Year celebrations.

 

Now although the start of Chinese New year has come and gone, the festivities are not yet over and there is still time to celebrate. As mentioned above, the Spring Festival celebration ends with the Lantern festival, which is on March 2nd this year. The lantern festival falls on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month and is also called “Yuan Xiao Jie” (Yuan Xiao festival). Coincidently, or not so coincidently since CNY is based on the lunar calendar, this day is also the day of the first full moon of the new year. People eat the sweet glutinous rice balls (aka tang yuan) brewed in a soup to symbolize the coming together of family and for a prosperous new year.

Tips for the new year:

As the new year begins and winter is coming to a close, we must still stay vigilant and keep our bodies healthy. Especially for people who were born in the year of the dog. According to Chinese astrology, years that share your birth sign are thought to bring a bit of bad luck. No need to worry though, this just means that people born under the dog zodiac just need to take extra care of themselves, stay calm, and try to relax during this time. A good excuse to give yourself some extra TLC don’t you think?

Now with winter still hanging on for a bit longer, that means that cold and flus are still making their rounds and people are more susceptible to getting sick from them. Acupuncture and diet therapy are good ways to keep your immune system strong and to relieve the symptoms of colds and flus if you do happen to get sick. Below, I have included some acupoints useful for relieving common symptoms of colds, and also a simple and delicious recipe for a traditional remedy to soothe sore throats and coughs.

Acupuncture points:

Stuffy or runny nose: LI20, DU23

 

Head and face symptoms (sinus issues, headaches, itchy eyes, etc.): LI4, Tai Yang, GB20

Fever: LI4
Sore throat or cough: LU10

*All acupuncture diagrams are reprinted or adapted from A Manual of Acupuncture by P. Deadman and M. Al-Khafaji, 2000, England: Journal of Chinese Medicine Publications. Copyright 2000 by Journal of Chinese Medicine Publications.

You can perform self-acupressure on each of the acupoints by pressing down with the tip of your fingers or nails and applying steady pressure to each point until you feel some soreness. Hold each point for about 30 seconds to 1 minute and repeat 3-4 times. These points can be pressed on both sides of the body and stimulated multiple times a day as needed.

Pear and rock sugar recipe to soothe sore throat and cough:

This tasty remedy is very popular and commonly used in Chinese households and helps to reduce phlegm, clear heat, and moisten the lungs. In other words, reduce excessive phlegm, soothe an irritated throat, reduce cough and fever, and prevent dehydration of the respiratory tract.

The ingredients and their specific functions include:

Asian pear: cooling, nourishes Lungs, moistens dryness
Rock sugar: clears heat, moistens and nourishes the Lungs

Optional:

  • Chen pi (aged tangerine peel): dissolves phlegm, dries dampness
  • Goji berries: tonifying yin herb, moistens lung, benefits the eyes
  • White fungus/wood ear (aka Yin Er or Tremella): nourishes the lungs, yin, and generates fluids- for dry cough
  • Steamed pear with rock sugar recipe:

 

Usually, there are no exact measurements for the ingredients as it was traditionally made by feeling/taste. But for those of you who like to start off with a recipe, here is a general quantity guideline you can follow. Once you have made this a couple of times and get the hang of it, feel free to modify the quantities of ingredients to taste, or according to the specific symptoms you wish to focus on.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pear
  • 5g to 10g rock sugar (or to taste, or can eliminate this ingredient entirely if you are not a fan of added sugar. Can substitute with honey as well.)

 

Directions:

  1. Skin the pear. Cut the top of the pear off (horizontally), remove the core, and hollow out the middle to create a “bowl”. Save the top part to be used as a lid in the next step.
  2. Place the bottom part of the pear in a bowl. Then put the rock sugar in the center of the hollowed-out pear and place the top part of the pear back on (like a lid to cover the hole).
  3. Place the bowl with pear in a steamer and steam for 8 to 15 minutes.
    The dish is ready when the color of pear turns slightly transparent and is tender to the touch.
  4. You can eat the ingredients and drink the liquid as well.

 

Modifications:

Other ingredients such as Goji (Gou Qi) berries or Chen Pi (aged tangerine peel) can be added to the hole at the center with the rock sugar before steaming (3g to 10g).

  • Chen Pi can be added to help reduce excessive phlegm.
  • Goji berries can be added for eye issues such as dry, itchy eyes, or excessively tearing eyes, etc.
  • Yin Er (White fungus) can be added for dry coughs or dry throat, and can be placed at the side of the pear before steaming.

Feel free to modify this recipe to your liking and taste, as it is full of good ingredients and you can’t go wrong whichever way you make it!

This recipe can also be made by placing all the ingredients together in a pot and boiling with a little bit of water.

This method is useful when making larger quantities for the whole family and any unused portions can be refrigerated and warmed up to eat/drink at a later time.

I hope this a post has given you some insight into the traditions around Chinese New Year and also some tools to help make it through the rest of winter and bring you some relief if you do happen to get sick. Feel free to contact me if you have any question and if you do try these remedies, please let me know how they work out for you.

I wish you a happy lantern festival and may the new year bring good health and fortune to you and yours!

Dr. Yangyang Xu 

Seasonal food recommendations for the fall

Posted on: October 3rd, 2017 by Mariano

After the warmth of summer our bodies and minds start to make gradual adjustments in preparation for the lower temperatures. How we choose and prepare foods can support the process of getting ready for the change of weather.

During autumn, everything in nature tends to contract and dry. It is the season of harvesting as well moving inward and gathering together at all levels.

Sour foods
help organize the body and focus the mind for this season. Eat more lemons, limes, grapefruit, sourdough bread, olives, pickles, leeks, aduki beans, salt plums, rose hip tea, vinegar, cheese, yogurt, the sour varieties of apples, plums and grapes. Note that small amounts of sour foods can have a strong effect.

Salty and bitter foods
help to move energy inward and downward. As fall progresses, it is good to slowly introduce more salty and bitter flavors.

Moist foods
counter dryness in any season. Use foods that moisten: spinach, barley, millet, pear, apple, seaweeds, almond, pine nut, peanut, sesame seed, barley malt, rice syrup, milk and dairy products, eggs, clam, crab, oyster, mussel, pork, and soybean products such as tofu, tempe and soy milk.

Cooking methods
should be more focused so the food keeps more energy. In general, cook with less water, at lower heat, and for longer periods of time. The blood in our bodies needs to get thicker as the weather grows cold. Baked and sautéed foods help with this.

*Reference: Pitchford, P. (1993). Healing With Whole Foods. Berkley: North Atlantic Books

Are you sitting in front of a computer all day? Five yoga postures that can help

Posted on: September 10th, 2017 by Mariano

Many of our clients spend hours, day after day sitting in front of the computer. The intense focus on the matter at work in the digital device combined with poor posture can create the muscle imbalances that are the fertile ground for future injuries. In this article we will focus on upper body, specially shoulders and back.

Generally the chronically tight muscles will include the muscles that round your shoulders and internally rotate your upper arm (subscapularis, teres major, anterior deltoid, pectorals major and minor), the muscles that hold your neck forwards – side and back neck muscles (sternocleidomastoid, upper trapezius, scalenes and levator scapulae). At the same time the muscles that externally rotate your arm (infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid), the ones that open your chest and draw the shoulder blades down (serratus anterior, rhomboids, middle and lower trapezious) are not worked at all and may become weak.

The beauty of yoga postures is that, when done with proper alignment they stretch tight muscles and strengthen weak ones, helping the body create a more balanced pattern of posture. This can prevent chronic neck and back pain and rotator cuff injuries.

Five Yoga Postures to Balance your Upper Body after a long day sitting in front of the computer

photo 1Savasana with bolster along the spine and hands under the neck (photo) Lie on a bolster positioned directly under the first two thirds of your spine with the shoulders hanging on the sides and the palms of the hands facing up. Your legs are extended forwards resting on the floor, with your toes resting outwards. Bring a rolled towel under your neck so that your chin is perpendicular to the ceiling and your jaw is relaxed. Allow your body to rest here for seven minutes to fifteen minutes. Take out the towel. If you are experiencing lower back pain in this posture, place another bolster under your knees or bend your knees. This posture helps open the chest, stretching pectoral muscles and brings space in the back of the neck.

 

photo 2

Gomukasana – Cow Face pose (photo) Sit on a block or a pillow with the spine long and the legs crossed (you can also sit on a chair), bring your right arm up beside your right ear and bend the elbow, placing the right hand in between shoulder blades. Bring your left are up beside your left ear and hold your right elbow with your left arm opening your chest. Take a breath there. Keep your right arm where it is and bring your left arm down and bend the elbow across the back so that the finger reach the fingers of the right hand. If the fingers doesn’t reach, use a strap (or scarf). Keep your shoulders down and open. Stay for seven breaths and repeat on the other side. This posture help stretch deeper shoulder muscles like the subscapularis and strengthens the infraspinatus.

 

 

 

photo 3Purvotanasana preparation Upward Plank pose prep (photo) Sit with your sit bones on the floor and your knees bent, your feet on the floor aligned with your sit bones. Place your hands behind your pelvis with your shoulders externally rotated and your fingers facing forward towards your pelvis. Draw your shoulders down. The weight on your hands should be distributed throughout all of your hand including your fingers. Press down and out through your hands opening your chest. Keep your pelvis on the floor. Stay for seven breaths. This posture helps open up your chest, stretching tight muscles in the front (pectorals) and streghening weak muscles that help stabilize your shoulders (rhomboids, middle and lower trapezius).

 

photo 4Tadasana Mountain pose with interlaced finger on the back of sacrum (photo) Stand with feet hip width apart. Feel the contact of your feet with the floor. Bring your toes up and then down. Activate your center. Interlace your fingers behind your pelvis touching the heels of your hands together. Bend your elbows and point them back. Externally rotate your shoulders and bring them down. Soften your knees and extend your elbows. Make sure that your lower back and neck stays long. Take seven deep breath here. Rest and repeat one more time. This grounding posture helps balance the effects of rounding your back in front of the desk, opening your chest and engaging the middle back muscles.

 

 

 

 

photo 5

Warrior I with cactus arms Virabhadrasana I (photo) From Tadasana bring your right foot back, your feet around 3 to 4 feet apart. Bend your front knee so that it is right on top of the left ankle, in a 90 degree angle. The back foot is turned in about 30 degree angle with the outer border of the foot on the floor. The pelvis and heart are facing forward. Raise your arms up beside your ears and keep your shoulders down. Bend your elbows so that they are in line with your shoulders. Keep your hands open facing forward. Notice your shoulder blades moving towards the midline and down your back, feel your chest opening. Take seven breaths here. This posture strengthens the middle and lower trapezius and rhomboids, as well as your legs.

 

If you have any questions please contact me. I could also teach you this on a one-on-one yoga class.

Soledad Torres RYT and co/owner of Integrated Therapies

Relaxation massage: how it helps your body & mind

Posted on: May 24th, 2017 by Mariano

Modern life is replete with sources of stress – everything from jobs with unrealistic expectations, to the demands of a busy family, to the overabundance of technology and stimulation. So much is happening and the pace is so fast, sometimes it feels like there’s too little of us to go around. More people are suffering from stress-related conditions than ever before – conditions that impact physical as well as mental and psychological health.

With the distractions and constraints that the constant pressure in our lives creates, it can be hard to remember what simply being alive and fully present in our bodies is supposed to feel like, or to make space for re-grounding ourselves.

But life balance is essential to maintaining ongoing health and wellness, and while we cannot control many of the pressures that bombard us in our daily lives, we can control the steps we choose to take to counteract their negative effects.

One of the best and simplest ways to manage stress and become more present with the inner self is relaxation massage.

The benefits of relaxation massage therapy:

  • Relaxation massage lowers stress levels by reducing the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, removing tension, creating a feeling of ease and mental clarity, and uplifting the mood.

 

  • Relaxation massage reduces muscular tension. The incorporation of deep diaphragmatic breathing during the session enhances this result.

 

  • The relaxing tempo and longer strokes of relaxation massage promote increased cardiac return and lymphatic flow, bringing freshly oxygenated blood to all the muscles and fascia of the body. Improved circulation promotes tissue healing and overall health.

 

  • When the body relaxes, troublesome areas become more apparent and easier for the therapist to access and address. The therapist can use deeper pressure to work on the problem areas in the course of creating full-body relaxation.

 

  • Touch is therapeutic. Many of us have a shortage of physical contact in our lives. Massage addresses the primal animal need for touch and creates a profound sense of well-being.

 

The state of relaxation and enhanced self-awareness that is achieved after a session has far-reaching benefits that have a positive impact on all areas of your health and your life. It’s important to regularly re-connect with yourself through massage.

If you feel that work or life is becoming too demanding on your body, or if you feel you need a space to be calm and relax and clear your mind, consider the benefits of a full-body relaxation massage. It’s an important part of taking good care of yourself.

portrait-emily

Emily Kaminsky, RMT

Emily is part of the team of Integrated Therapies. Read more about her here. If you like to book a session with her you can do it online or call the health centre at (780) 432-4803

Spring: the season of renewal and growth by Dr. Yangyang

Posted on: March 30th, 2017 by Mariano

 Spring according to Traditional Chinese Medicine and the five element theory

The flow of qi and balance of yin and yang can be described in five distinct stages. And each stage is associated with its own time of year, element, organ system, colour, emotion, and many more qualities. With each stage, there are sets of general guidelines to follow to help the body deal with the environmental qualities of that stage, and also to help with the transition into the next season.

Spring, in particular, is associated with the wood element, the Liver organ, the emotion of anger, and the colour green. When you think about it, it makes sense. Spring conjures up images of plants sprouting and leaves budding on trees, and what colour are most plants and leaves? That’s right, green! And since green is the colour associated with spring, eating more young, leafy green vegetables during this time of year is especially good for the body. Also, the taste associated with the Liver is sour, so you can incorporate some sour elements into your diet such as using lemon in cooking or drinking lemon-infused beverages. Be careful not to over-indulge in sour foods though, because too much of the sour taste can, conversely, have an adverse effect on the Liver.

The Liver, the organ of the spring

The Liver in Chinese Medicine is responsible for the smooth flow of qi throughout the whole body. When the Liver runs properly, physical and emotional activity also function smoothly. The Liver also controls the tendons. So a good activity to do in the spring is to stretch. Stretching can increase blood flow and circulation to the muscles and tendons, which is another one of the Liver’s other main functions- to store and distribute blood when needed. Activities such as yoga, jogging, and taichi are great things to do in the spring.

Chinese scripture for spring with explanation.

Chinese scripture for spring with explanation.

However, since weather during springtime is somewhat unpredictable (warming weather mixed with sudden cold fronts), we need to be careful about our exposure to wind and cold. Spring also corresponds to wind environmentally, and the Liver is very susceptible to the effects of wind, which can bundle with other pathogens such as heat or cold and cause symptoms like the common cold.

An old Chinese saying states “春捂秋冻、不生杂病: chun wu qiu dong, bu sheng za bing”, which translates to “bundling up in the spring and keeping cool in the fall prevents you from getting various illnesses”.

When transitioning from winter to spring, the body needs to gradually get used to the warmer weather. Since spring is the season for growth, this also refers to the Yang (or hot) energy gradually growing and building up. However, since the Yang is still rising and relatively weak to the unpredictable coldness of the environment that can appear without warning, we need keep bundled up so that the Yang energy can be nurtured and pathogens can be kept out.

Acupuncture for this season

Getting acupuncture is a good way to prep your body and help with the transition into spring. Using TCM theories, acupuncture can help balance the body, improve the overall health of the Liver, and help deal with emotional issues such as anger, stress, or frustration which are commonly seen in Liver qi disharmony.

Acupuncture treatments can harmonize the inner organ systems and correct minor annoyances before they become serious problems. See an acupuncturist or TCM practitioner to see how acupuncture can help you stay healthy this spring!

 

Dr. Yangyang practices acupuncture and other TCM modalities at Integrated Therapies. If you would like to have more information:

read more about Dr.Yangyang

read more about acupuncture

book an appointment online

 

 

 

 

Effectively treating low back pain with acupuncture & massage

Posted on: March 12th, 2017 by Mariano

by Mariano Torres, R.Ac / director of Integrated Therapies

 

I have been a bodywork therapist for more than fifteen years. My expertise includes Shiatsu, Thai Massage and Tuina. I am also a registered acupuncturist with additional training in sports medicine acupuncture for orthopaedic disorders.

One of the most prevalent and debilitating conditions I treat is lower back pain. Here’s a brief overview of how I address and resolve lower back pain problems with acupuncture and bodywork.

This is by no means intended to explain either every step of every treatment or the intricacies of Chinese medicine and acupuncture, but only to illustrate typical treatments for lower back pain.

Acute vs chronic back pain

When addressing lower back pain, it’s important to differentiate between acute and chronic conditions. An acute condition may be an injury that happened a few days or weeks ago or a sudden pain that started recently. A chronic condition is pain that is recurrent or constant and has been present for more than three months.

As a rule, acute issues are easier to treat because the body is still strong and hasn’t been debilitated by ongoing pain. A body with chronic pain is weakened both by pain and by compensatory abnormalities or restrictions in movement. Chronic lower back pain may be the result of an old injury, bad posture, improper diet, stress, lack of exercise, or digestive or menstrual problems. All applicable causes must be addressed to correct the condition.

Once we assess and identify the type of pain, we can decide what kind of treatment is appropriate.

The assessment

assessment of sacroiliac joint

assessment of sacroiliac joint

Assessment starts with diagnostic questions then moves on to orthopaedic and muscle imbalance testing. Diagnostic questions explore the history of the pain and identify symptoms and lifestyle considerations. The orthopaedic assessment addresses the alignment of the hipbones and sacrum. In 90% of cases where lower back pain is present, there is a structural misalignment that needs to be addressed.

We first check the position of the hipbones. They may be tilted to the front (figure 1), which causes constriction of the lower back, or to the back (figure 2), which causes weakness and poor stability in the lower back.

We then test the sacroiliac joint for movement. The sacroiliac joint connects the sacrum bone to both hipbones or iliac bones (figure 3). It is often locked on one or both sides when lower back problems are present.

Finally, we conduct muscle testing to reveal which muscles are weak or not firing well, and which muscles are working

hip alignment examples

hip alignment examples

harder to compensate, causing fatigue, weakness, pain, and misalignment. Muscle malfunction can be either the cause of the problem or the result of an alignment issue. For example, if the gluteal muscles are weak, the hip will tilt forward because they cannot hold it in the correct position.

The treatment

In Chinese medicine, we address acute pain as “Blood and Qi Stagnation”, which is a lack of movement of blood and flow of energy. The stagnation of energy and blood is caused by a blockage in the injured or painful area, and treatment is focused on re-establishing the movement of blood and energy to remove it.

In the case of chronic lower back pain, we primarily address the kidney energy in the body. A common symptom of deficient kidney Qi is lower back pain. In Chinese medicine, kidney energy is the main source of strength and the capacity to thrive. By strengthening that energy, we help the body to heal itself.

Acute lower back pain usually requires one to two treatments weekly for a few weeks, while chronic pain might need one treatment every ten days for up to several months.

Each ninety-minute treatment works toward correcting the issues identified during the assessment and addressing any constitutional issues that are present.

A typical example

A client complains of being tired and having pain in the right hip that radiates down the leg (commonly called sciatic pain). During the orthopedic assessment, we discover that the client’s sacroiliac joint is locked on the right side, and that the right hip is tilted forward. Muscle testing reveals that the gluteal muscles are weak and the psoas muscles are not functioning well, especially on the right side.

Treatment includes:

Acupuncture

  • unlocking the sacroiliac joint by inserting needles at key points
  • resetting muscles by inserting needles in the motor points to restore firing
  • addressing the anterior tilt of the right hip by inserting needles in specific point combinations
  • releasing the root nerve of the psoas and gluteal muscles by inserting needles close to the vertebrae
  • addressing the constitutional issues with point combinations that correct weak kidney energy

 

Bodywork

  • deep tissue massage in the area
  • stretching and decompression of the lower back, legs and feet (Thai Massage style therapy)
  • acupressure in certain areas of the hips and back (Shiatsu style)

 

After the initial session, we will conduct a reassessment to see if the alignment has changed, and make recommendations for a treatment plan.

Read more about Mariano

If you like to book a first treatment and assessment with Mariano please call the clinic at (780) 432-4803 or book online: “Acupuncture first treatment and assessment” he will combine acupuncture and massage.

 

 

Portrait of Mariano Torres

Mariano Torres R.Ac/ director

Some client comments:

“Mr. Torres is an individual with the power to enhance, or change your life. His knowledge and skill with the mind and body of a patient provide relief from discomfort, peace of mind, and nurturing for the soul. In my times of pain he has been a provider of wonderful relief, spirit, and positive energy.

He is well versed and skilled in traditional western therapies, as well as traditional healing techniques – and whether you are a believer in alternative medicine and therapy or not, Mariano is a practitioner of great warmth. He is truly one of the healers who has made a direct and lasting impact on my quality of life.

I cannot recommend him highly enough – as a practitioner, or as a person.”
Greg Scratchley

 

“I have had various treatments recently at Integrated Therapies and would highly recommend the therapists that I have had treatment with :-
Mariano Torres treated me for pain in my lower back that was becoming so intense, any kind of movement was difficult. He has a warm, kind manner that with his sensitivity and knowledge of Acupuncture – holds a safe and caring space in which I could trust and totally relax.  My back pain was greatly helped in the first appointment, and a day later, with rest, the nerve pain had completely gone. Mariano is a master in his field.
Kim Reimnitz

 

“When I came to integrated therapies, I had been experiencing pain in the left side of my lower back for over two years. I had seen and followed treatment with a physiotherapist and a chiropractor, but they were not able to really diagnose what was causing the inflammation. They were treating my symptoms and as soon as I would stop going, the pain would come back. When I started seeing Mariano, he found the root cause of my pain the very first day and worked from here. After a couple of sessions my pain started changing and then slowly releasing. He did not only ease up the pain, but taught me to create more awareness with my back. I am happy to say that I finished my treatment with him almost two months ago and I am pain free. Not only that, I can keep up with all my physical activities and not worry about how I am going to wake up the next day. He is really magical with those needles. I experienced him as very knowledgeable, kind and professional. I highly recommend him to anyone.”
Gabriela Touma

 

“True healing experience with a true doctor! I had so much trouble with my back pain. I have gone to a drop-in clinic doctor for three months, a chiropractor, a physiotherapist (expensive and very well-known) and a masseuse. Nothing made changes. The back pain has only got aggravated over time. And I met Mariano and I finally feel that he really cares for me and is willing to work this out. I have no doubt that with his treatment I will get better and get back to my normal active life. He focuses not only on the regional pain you have, but also on the general wellness and balance of your body. If you are seeking for a more mindful, integrated approach to treating your pain, this is the right place.”
Karen Kang

 

“I had my first acupuncture appointment with Mariano. My pain relief wasn’t instant but by the end of the next day, my pain was gone! I will make acupuncture with Mariano one of my “must have” treatments! Thanks Mariano! “
Audrey M.

 

“Mariano is an exceptional practitioner of acupuncture and massage. He is highly skilled at assessing where the problem lies and how to approach treatment. I have had several types of treatment for physical problems and his technique is definitely superior. I have felt significantly better and look forward to more treatments. Thank you so much Mariano.” S.D.

Golden Milk, a recipe for inflammatory conditions and much more.

Posted on: November 4th, 2016 by Mariano

Golden Milk recipe Golden Milk recipe
Its great for you! Start drinking it every evening before bed.

Golden Milk is an Ayurvedic recipe. I started recommending Golden Milk to some of my clients that suffer from inflammatory conditions in the joints, from just muscle tension to more serious condition like cartilage degeneration.

Now I recommend this “magic potion” to all my clients because it has amazing benefits:

  1. It’s an antiseptic and an analgesic, so it helps with pain relief
  2. It detoxes the liver and helps to purify the blood
  3. It helps your digestive system
  4. It’s great for joint problems, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  5. It works well for different skin problems.
  6. It offers a general immunity boost and provides you with a good dose of antioxidants.

 

I recommend to drink Golden Milk before bed. It will help you sleep as well. My wife and I drink it every night.

The recipe is divided into two parts. First, we’ll look at how to make the turmeric paste. Then, we’ll use the paste to make the golden milk.

Turmeric paste
½ cup of clean water
¼ cup of turmeric powder
½ teaspoon of ground pepper

Put the pan with water in it on a medium heat setting. Add turmeric and pepper and stir well, so you create a smooth paste. It takes about 7 to 9 minutes to get the paste properly cooked. If it becomes too dry, you can add some more water.

Allow the mixture to cool down and then place it in a glass container with an airtight lid. The paste will keep in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks.

Some people take this paste directly, without making it into a concoction. It’s good for pain relief. For severe pain, it’s recommended to take half to 1 teaspoon of turmeric paste a day.

Golden milk recipe
¼ teaspoon (or more if you can tolerate the taste) of turmeric paste
1 cup almond milk (you can also use organic cow’s milk or other milk substitute)
1 teaspoon of coconut oil (you can also use sesame oil or sweet almond oil) – get unrefined, cold pressed oil
Some honey (or use another natural sweetener such as maple syrup, stevia)

Put milk and turmeric paste in a pot and cook on medium heat. Heat the mixture until steaming but not boiling. Remove from heat. When the drink cools down, add honey and oil. The oil supplies you with healthy fats and further increases turmeric absorption. It helps with joint lubrication and promotes cellular function.

Enjoy!

Mariano Torres / director at Integrated Therapies

Treating Insomnia with Acupuncture by Peter Lee

Posted on: June 13th, 2016 by Mariano

While acupuncture is used to treat a wide range of conditions, each acupuncturist tends to have an individual style and an area of particular focus. I am most interested in alleviating psychoemotional conditions such as depression and insomnia.

 

Psychological and emotional conditions are difficult to treat, and western medicine does not offer many options. Most are medication-based, and attempt only to address symptoms while ignoring root causes – and, inevitably, medications have side effects, which are sometimes severe. Also, discovering the best medication and the exact right dose for any given patient is a process of trial and error that can be prolonged and is not always successful, if indeed it is undertaken at all. More commonly, cookie-cutter solutions are imposed without regard to individual fit or efficacy.

 

How acupuncture works with psychoemotional conditions

Acupuncture, on the other hand, seeks to address both root and branches of psychoemotional conditions, and can do so effectively and with minimal risk of side effects. One of the most basic tenets of acupuncture and traditional East Asian medicine is that everyone is different, so treatment begins with a recognition of the uniqueness of the individual. Proceeding through gathering relevant diagnostic information to correct diagnosis and correctly targeted treatment, acupuncture can relieve depression and insomnia without risk of side-effects.

 

The importance of sleep

Most people acknowledge the importance of sleep, but few truly understand its profound impact on overall health. Insufficient sleep increases the risk of – or directly leads to – irritability, headaches, heart disease, weight gain, poor vision, infection, gastrointestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), depression, diabetes, and cancer. Both the amount and quality of sleep is directly related to all aspects of physical and mental health.

In traditional East Asian medicine, insomnia is defined as a condition in which quantity and quality of sleep are decreased consistently for more than a month. Insomnia may be present in the form of one or more of the following: difficulty falling asleep, waking up easily throughout the night (except from pain or full bladder), early awakening with difficulty going back to sleep, and dream-disturbed sleep. Insomnia may be due to multiple factors including pathogenic heat, overthinking, emotional frustration, and depression.

 

Research in the effectiveness  of acupuncture in treating insomnia

Scientific research verifies the effectiveness of acupuncture in this area. In an article recently published in the Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, for example, acupuncture was shown to be 90% effective in improving total sleep duration and sleep quality for patients with depression, with similar clinical results as an antidepressant, but lower relapse rates and no side effects.

There were two groups, the acupuncture group and the antidepressant medication (Mirtazapine) group. Total effectiveness rate for acupuncture treatment was 90% with no side effects of any kind. Total effectiveness of mirtazapine treatment was 92.5%, but with dizziness, drowsiness, vision changes, weight gain, increased appetite, and constipation listed as common side effects.

In the research, Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D) was used to measure improvement. Within one month of treatment, the acupuncture group showed 9.7% improvement in HAM-D score while the medication group showed 15.9% improvement in the HAM-D score. Within three months of treatment, the acupuncture group showed 36.2% improvement while the medication group showed 32.5% improvement.

For three months, the acupuncture group received treatments every other day while the medication group were given 20 mg of mirtazapine tablets orally once a day. The point prescription for the acupuncture group consisted of primary acupuncture points which addressed the depression and insomnia, and of secondary acupuncture points which addressed the differential diagnosis of each individual. The primary points included a point on the wrist (Shenmen – HT-7), a point on the leg (Sanyinjiao – SP-6), and a point between the eyebrows (Yintang). The secondary acupuncture points, which were added to address the different needs of each individual, included a point on the foot (Taichong – LR-3) and a point on the leg (Yanglingquan – GB-34) if the other symptoms they had were liver related symptoms such as headache, irritability, and rib pain, or a point on the arm (Jianshi – PC-5), and a point on the leg (Zusanli – ST-36) if the other symptoms they had were spleen symptoms such as poor appetite, indigestion, vomiting, nausea, and epigastric or abdominal pain. The needles were stimulated every 10 minutes and were retained for 30 minutes.

It was concluded that acupuncture improves total sleep duration and sleep quality significantly, which in return reduced the relapse rate for depression and insomnia and improved overall health, both physically and mentally, without any side effects.

Another study, a single-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled research, concluded that acupuncture improves sleep and reduces insomnia when compared to sham acupuncture (random needling) and to a medication, estazolam. Acupuncture showed significantly superior results improving total sleep duration and sleep quality, like the previously mentioned study. The point prescription in this study included a few points on the head (Shenting – GV-24, Sishencong, and Baihui – GV-20), a point on the wrist (Shenmen – HT-7), and a point on the leg (Sanyinjiao – SP-6). The estazolam medication group experienced side effects such as daytime drowsiness.

In a further study, acupuncture was shown to increase the bodily serotonin levels and the concentration of gama-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in cerebrospinal fluid. Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters which regulate cognitive function, mood, sleep, and appetite, while GABA is another neurotransmitter which reduces the excitability of the neurons. In this study, acupuncture was shown to have 93.3% total effectiveness rate in the treatment of insomnia. The point prescription included a point on the head (Shenting – GV-24), a point on the wrist (Shenmen – HT-7), points on the leg (Sanyinjiao – SP-6 and Zusanli – ST-36), a point between the eyebrows (Yintang), and a point behind the ears (Anmian). The needles were retained for 45 minutes each session. Additionally, acupuncture points in the ear (Subcortex and Shenmen) were used with ear seeds (Vaccaria seeds covered with zinc oxide tape) rather than needles and patients were asked to stimulate them for few minutes each day.

 

In conclusion

Research is confirming the effectiveness of the ancient arts of healing. In studies examining the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating insomnia and depression, acupuncture successfully increased total sleep duration and quality while decreasing daytime dysfunction and sleepiness, with no side effects. It’s important to understand that acupuncture does not alleviate symptoms as quickly as medications because it does not add synthetic hormones into the system or chemically modify the body, and that the absence of side effects is a significant compensation for the longer duration of treatment. Unless a condition developed overnight, it will not disappear overnight, and the additional time it takes to remediate a condition of long standing allows a more natural and lasting course of healing and restoring balance.

Read more about the author Peter Lee R.Ac. or book an appointment with him.

 

References

Kelman L, Rains JC (2005). Headache and Sleep: Examination of Sleep Patterns and Complaints in a Large Clinical Sample of Migraineurs.

Meier-Ewert HK, Ridker PM, Rifai N, Regan MM, Price NJ (2004). Effects of Sleep Loss on C-reactive protein, an Inflammatory Marker of Cardiovascular Risk.

Benedict C, Brooks SJ, O’Daly OG, Almen MS, Morell A (2012). Acute Sleep Deprivation enhances the Brain’s Reponse to Hedonic Food Stimuli: an fMRI Study.

Orzel-Gryglewska J (2010). Consequences of Sleep Deprivation.

C. A. Everson. (1993). Sustained Sleep Deprivation impairs Host Defense. American Journal of Physiology.

Tauseef Ali. James Choe, Ahmed Awab, Theodore L Wagener (2013). Sleep, Immunity, and Inflammation in Gastrointestinal Disorder. World Journal of Gastroenterology.

Baglioni C, Battagliese G, Feige B, Spiegelhaldar K (2011). Insomnia as a Predictor of Depression: A Meta-Analytic Evaluation of Longitudinal Epidemiological Studies.

Ye GC & Yan H. (2014). Therapeutic Observation of Acupuncture for Depressive Insomnia. Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 55(6)

Lin-Peng Wang, Guo, Jing, Cun-Zhi Liu, Jie Zhang, Gui-Ling Wang, Jing-Hong, Yi, Jin- Lian cheng, and R. Musil. Efficacy of Acupuncture for Primary Insomnia: a Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. Deutsche Zeitschrift fur Akupunktur 57, No. 4 (2014): 31-32

Wang H, Meng X.H, Zou W. (2014). Curative Effect of Acupuncture Therapy of Regulating Mentality combined with Auricular Point in the Treatment of Insomnia. Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 30(7).