Massage Therapy and Professional Athletes

The main focus of a professional athlete should be on the condition of his or her body.  Why?  Because to be at the pinnacle of the sport, the athlete is often required to push the boundaries of human performance.  Their body generates, and is subjected to, forces and stress that the average person will likely never experience.  For the elite athlete, decreased muscle function and power during rigorous, high intensity events compound the chance for injury.

A proper analogy would be to liken the athlete to a formula one race car.  To be competitive, the man, as well as the machine, is ideally operating at or near peak levels.  In order for the car to reach that potential, it requires a savvy mechanic that understands the workings of the particular vehicle and how to tweak it for performance gains.  It would only make sense that the athlete would need a similar ‘mechanic’, but one that works on the human body. This person is the massage therapist and if integrated into an athletic training program, can help the professional stave off injuries, recover quickly from painful trauma, and prolong his or her athletic career.

In the realm of competitive sport, the licensed massage therapist (LMT) is part of the medical staff.  The role of the LMT covers preventive care, maintenance, and mild trauma/injury.  The therapist will also be involved in any regimen of pain management and rehabilitation.  But, the truth of the matter is that massage is not as integrated a part of the medical team as it should be.  There are still pro teams that do not staff an LMT.

Correctly utilized, massage therapy assists the professional athlete in three distinct ways:

  1. Preventive Care – If not taken care of, little aches and pains can compound and contribute to serious injury.  Muscular micro-tears, tendinopathies, radiculopathies, joint pain, minor bone subluxations, and soft tissue swelling and inflammation, can be addressed with massage therapy to prevent further, more severe complications.
  2. Functional Maintenance – When operating at or near 100%, massage can be used to keep the body balanced and healthy.
  3. Injury Rehabilitation – The body’s natural method of protection after injury, is to tense up the surrounding local muscles.  It is an innate safety mechanism that creates a shield against further external trauma, as well as forms a stable, less mobile structure.  The downside is that the tight, tense muscles slow blood circulation and lymphatic drainage.  Therapeutic massage can be an impressive assistant to relax the injured soft tissue and allow the fluids to circulate smoothly and speed the healing process.  For these reasons, every rehabilitation program should have some form of Massage therapy included.

One elite athlete that regularly uses massage therapy is James Harrison, a professional football linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals.  It is estimated that he spends upwards of a half-million dollars a year on total bodywork.  Is it necessary?  For Harrison, his salary literally pays for him to stay healthy and injury free.  Most of his compensation and bonuses depend on whether he is on the field.  Needless to say, Harrison understands that massage therapy is an asset to his football career and is a key component in keeping his body strong and free from injury.

The articles linked below are about James Harrison and the costs associated with his bodywork over the course of the year.  But what is really brought to light is that the idea of pro sports athletes using therapeutic massage for a performance edge is still a relatively new and surprising thing.  Though if Mr. Harrison continues his long and fruitful football career, a lot more players will agree and seek out the benefits of massage therapy for themselves.  And when enough pros are asking for massage, maybe then, more sports organizations will see the value of adding a few licensed massage therapists to the medical staff.

NOTE:  At August Point Wellness, we treat athletes from the novice to the professional.  We can assist and work with your training schedule to ensure that you get the care you need.

Related Articles

James Harrison Spends up to $600,000 a Year on Massages

Cincinnati Bengals Linebacker James Harrison is a ‘Massage Whore’

NFL.com – Bengals Linebacker James Harrison’s Expensive Body Maintenance Plan (video)

Forbes Article on If James Harrison Can Deduct Massage Therapy on his Tax Return

5 Common Running Injuries, 1 Treatment Tool (Part 1 of 5)

Rectus femoris - Muscles of the Lower Extremit...

Rectus femoris plays a large part in PFPS, or runner’s knee syndrom

Running brings joy to many people.  But, it can also bring pain.  Poor gait, muscular imbalance, repetitive stress, improper shoes, etc., can all contribute to a less than blissful experience.  The constant pounding on the joints from the pavement can take its toll on the body when unmanaged.  The good news is that appropriate maintenance of the body can key in to long-lasting enjoyment of this healthy exercise.

There are a handful of running injuries that continue to be among the most frequent.  Here, we outline the top five painful jogging issues along with one simple tool to treat and relieve them all.  It’s called the Sciaticare Ball and once understood, this trigger point, acupressure and physical therapy tool can be used to relieve many body aches and pains.  The importance of resolving injuries immediately cannot be understated.  If one continues to push through the pain and the irritation, compound and chronic problems can arise to deter a quick recovery.

The top five running issues are:

  1. Patellofemoral pain syndrome – also known as PFPS or runner’s knee
  2. Iliotibial band syndrome – also known as IT band syndrome
  3. Plantar fasciitis/Achilles tendonitis – these two are typically interrelated
  4. Ankle sprain – along with ankle instability
  5. Hamstring tightness/pull – an important, and often neglected muscle in running

Below, we will address the first of the five pain conditions that runners often suffer.  The other parts will come in later segments.

1.  PATELLOFEMORAL PAIN SYNDROME (Runner’s Knee, PFPS) –  This has been defined as knee pain at or under the patella or knee cap.

Problem — The quadriceps muscle does the bulk of the work in the upper leg during the runner’s gait.  In general, the quadriceps muscle is more powerful than its antagonist, the hamstring muscle group.  Due to the nature of running, this imbalance can grow out of control.  The result is an overly powerful knee extension muscle group (when compared to the antagonist group).  Without going into the complexities of muscle control, spasm, reciprocal inhibition, etc., the quadriceps muscle continues to pull on the knee strongly without much oppositional vector force reaction from the hamstring group.  This repeated unilateral force can wreak havoc on the knee cap.  Pain directly over the kneecap (or a feeling like the pain is underneath the patella) is typically due to the rectus femoris and/or vastus lateralis.

Solution —  This is a two-part treatment.  The first part is treating the rectus femoris (RF) and underlying vastus intermedius (VI) for muscle spasm and tightness.  The second part is strengthening the hamstring group.  This second part is outside the scope of this article and will only be briefly touched upon in part 5 of this series.

Treatment –  Lie prone on a firm, flat, level surface.  Find the midpoint of the line connecting the ASIS and the patella.  This is the trigger point for the rectus femoris and vastus intermedius.  Place the Sciaticare Ball between this location and the floor.  The weight of the thigh should provide enough pressure to stimulate the trigger points found here.  Reach back and grab the ankle on the same side you wish to treat, and pull the foot towards the buttock to stretch the quadriceps.  Rock the leg back and forth over the tendermost areas.  Treat any other tender spots nearby in similar fashion.

A PDF of one simple exercise utilizing the Sciaticare Ball (complete with pictures) can be found here:

http://www.augustpoint.com/articles/sciaticare_quicksheet_rectus_femoris.pdf

The combined effect of stretching the quadriceps and massaging the trigger points in the quadriceps will keep muscles limber and loose.  It is possible to treat the quadriceps daily, as this large muscle group can quickly adapt and benefit.

Although it is possible that the runner’s knee is caused by weak quadriceps muscles, it is rarely the cause.  In many cases, the quadriceps tend to be either:  overpowering to the hamstrings, or inflexible.  It is not recommended to increase strength training for the quadriceps group until the trigger point is worked out and the muscles made more flexible.

This concludes part 1 of 5.

Effective Pregnancy Hemorrhoid Acupuncture Points

Hemorrhoids (or piles) are a nuisance during pregnancy.  They can occur at any time, but most commonly emerge after the first trimester.  The combination of hormones, increased blood volume, additional circulatory pathways, and pressure on the pelvic veins contribute to hemorrhoidal eruptions and discomfort.

UB57 - Located in the cleft between the heads of the gastrocnemius; UB58 - located 1" below and 1" to the outside of UB57.

UB57 – Located in the cleft between the heads of the gastrocnemius; UB58 – located 1″ below and 1″ to the outside of UB57.

Two acupuncture points used in traditional Chinese medicine for hemorrhoids are Supporting Mountain (UB57) and Taking Flight (UB58).  See Figure 1.  A safe and natural medical alternative, these two as well as almost all other acupuncture points can work alone or harmoniously with conventional care during the entire antepartum period.  The drug-free solution that acupuncture provides will relieve the medication-related fears and side effect risks that concern many pregnant mothers in seeking medical care.  Natural medicine should always be sought out first during the prenatal period, since the treatment is more gentle to the body and the side effects are few to none.  If alternative care does not produce desired results, then one may need more potent treatments with the acknowledgement that related side effects/harms could be associated.

Another benefit of treating the points Supporting Mountain and Taking Flight, are in the quick relief of hemorrhoidal pain.  In the clinic, as little as one treatment has proven beneficial in swelling reduction and reduced rectal bleeding.  In the same fashion as acupuncture, acupressure on these two acupuncture points can also provide abatement of the inflammation or rupture.  Thus, the mother-to-be can perform acupressure on herself using her thumbs or a firm object to massage the target area.  This may also be a good time for her partner to lend a helping hand.  Since UB57 and UB58 mirror the two sides of the body, both the left and right points can be treated a few times a day until the symptoms resolve.

(Figure 2) Example of patient using the Sciaticare Ball to massage UB58.

(Figure 2) Example of pregnant patient using the Sciaticare Ball to massage UB58.

A self- massage technique using the Sciaticare Ball, a versatile self-massage tool for pregnancy related aches and pains, is shown in Figure 2.  Place the Sciaticare Ball between the acupuncture point and a firm surface.  Allow the weight of the lower leg to apply pressure to UB57 or UB58 and rock the lower leg back and forth over the Ball.  The pressure on the acupuncture point should feel like a deep massage.  Perform technique for 1-3 minutes per point and repeat 2 to 3 times daily.  Daily use of the Sciaticare Ball is recommended to help alleviate this in addition to some of the other symptoms associated with pregnancy discomfort.

For those that do not believe in acupuncture as a true medical system, a partial Western medical explanation of stimulation of UB57 and UB58 is provided here.  Although some Western doctors and Eastern doctors may disagree, there is data confirming much of the reasoning below.  This is one reason (of possibly many) for the acupuncture points’ continued successes in the treatment of hemorrhoids.

Both UB57 and UB58 penetrate the soleus muscle and elicit a response from this densely innervated muscle.  This muscle plays a strong accessory role to the heart with its operation as a second pump for the circulatory system.  When supple and relaxed, the soleus delivers an effective venous pumping action with every muscular contraction.  As the additional weight and strain on a pregnant woman’s body can tighten and constrict the soleus muscle to reduce the effectiveness of this auxiliary pump, blood and lymph flow back to the heart can be impeded.  Other pregnancy symptoms that are related to the circulatory restrictions can be seen in hypertension, edema, varicose veins, and fatigue.  Stimulation of Supporting Mountain and Taking Flight points relax the soleus muscle spasms and tension, which then improves fluid flow through the lower legs.  The result is a relaxed and supple soleus muscle that can more easily pump blood back to the heart with every walking step.  The reduced pressure in the venous system decreases the enlarged veins and clears up the problem.  A healthy functioning soleus muscle also serves to lower blood pressure, reduce edema and swelling, and ease systemic blood flow.

NOTE:  These acupuncture points have proven themselves in the clinic and are backed by a few thousand years of empirical evidence.  One does not have to believe in acupuncture for it to work, nor does one have to hold it in the light of the flawed clinical trial methodology and experimentation that propose to scientifically prove or disprove every medical treatment through separation of part from whole.  Present scientific methods do not capture (and for this reason, can not confine) all the variables that true medicine represents, both alternative and conventional. Consequently, we as a species, have not and do not fully understand the entire human body model and its processes, either dissected or as a synergistic system.  The idea presented here is but one of many considerations of why these two acupuncture points work from a Western scientific model, and should therefore be understood as just that, until proven in an all-encompassing study to be either positive or negative.

4 Points For Big Toe Pain (Part 1)

Big toe (hallux) pain occurs in a significant number of people at some point in their lives.  Not only affecting athletes, hallux pain also includes the sedentary population to a significant degree.  Early assessment and treatment of big toe pain is important in preventing long-term damage and chronic reinjury.

Although hallux pain triggers are various, this article will be focused on pain due to stress and strain on the joint due to the surrounding musculature.  If hallux pain is mainly located on the plantar (bottom) side of the foot, the four points found here may help provide significant relief.  These simple points can be manipulated oneself or treated by a skilled massage therapist or licensed acupuncturist.

Point 1 –  Abductor hallucis muscle.  This muscle is responsible for plantar flexion of the hallux and some medial deviation (hallux varus) of the proximal phalanx (big toe points away from other toes).  The abductor hallucis gives structure to the medial arch of the foot as well.  Tight abductor hallucis muscles can be easily mistaken for plantar fasciitis pain.  A notable distinction is that this pain is typically concentrated along the medial arch of the foot between the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint and the calcaneous (heel).  [See Figure 1 for treatment location.]

Point 2 –  Adductor hallucis muscle.  Compared to abductor hallucis, this muscle similarly plantar flexes the big toe, but laterally deviates (hallux valgus) the proximal phalanx (big toe points toward other toes).  The opposing forces of the adductor hallucis and abductor hallucis provide stabilization of the hallux in the transverse plane.  Severe lateral deviation of the proximal phalanx is sometimes referred to as a bunion. The adductor hallucis pain is typically concentrated on the lateral edge of the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint and can spread to an area beneath the 2nd through 5th metatasophalangeal joints. This muscle is considered a deep foot muscle and will require adequate pressure for stimulation.  [See Figure 1 for treatment location.]

Point 3 –  Flexor Hallucis Brevis muscle.  The flexor hallucis brevis shares some of the function of both the abductor and adductor hallucis muscles.  Pain caused by the flexor hallucis brevis is mainly located around the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint.  This muscle is considered a deep foot muscle and will require adequate pressure for stimulation. [See Figure 1 for treatment location.]

1 - Abductor hallucis; 2 - adductor hallucis; 3 - flexor hallucis brevis

(Figure 1)  1 – Abductor hallucis; 2 – Adductor hallucis; 3 – Flexor hallucis brevis

Point 4 –  Flexor Hallucis Longus muscle.  This muscle is located outside the foot and is thus known as an extrinsic foot muscle.  It resides in the lower leg behind the soleus muscle and attaches to the fibula.  The flexor hallucis longus is a comparably large plantar flexor of the hallux and is thus responsible for strong plantar flexion of the big toe, especially during walking and running.  This muscle is one of the most important muscles to treat in big toe pain and due to its remote location, one of the least addressed.  Since this muscle is deep to the soleus, adequate pressure is necessary for proper treatment of the flexor hallucis longus.  [See Figure 2 for treatment location.]

Figure 2 - Flexor Hallucis Longus

(Figure 2) 4 – Flexor hallucis longus

In any painful foot condition, treat the musculature and soft tissue first.  Tight muscles will continuously pull on joints and elicit pain.  This common occurrance is often overlooked in sourcing joint pain.  Intolerance to orthotics may be a sign that the muscles in the foot are causing pain or problems associated with the big toe and foot.  Before seeking out orthotics, one should have the surrounding musculature checked for tender trigger points and sensitivity.  Orthotics typically solve structural problems of the foot and should not be used until all of the functional components (i.e. muscles, tendons, fascia) have been treated for some length of time.  Calf cramps, foot cramps, poor circulation in the lower extremities are other signs that muscular problems in the feet are occuring.  This functional approach to medicine can save hundreds to thousands of dollars in expenses and can circumvent more invasive procedures, such as surgery.

A simple, effective tool in maintaining the functional ability of the hallux is a rubber ball.  Roll each foot over a ball for 5 minutes a day, spending a minute or more on each of the points listed above.  Sit on the floor with legs straight out and place the ball under #4.  The weight of the lower leg may provide enough pressure to stimulate the flexor hallucis longus.  If not, cross the other leg over top of the leg being treated to increase the weight.  This procedure should be followed 4-5 days a week for a couple of months to allow the muscle spasms and tightness to abate.  This is an excellent way to promote good blood circulation, massage intrinsic foot muscles, stimulate nerve endings, and refresh tired, worn out feet.

August Point Wellness offers a self-massage tool called the Sciaticare Ball that is quite a bit more useful than the rubber ball stated previously.  The Sciaticare Ball can be used on feet, calves, back, hips, and much more.  With an easy to place handle, it allows better control in massaging those hard to reach places.  Visit www.augustpoint.com or Amazon to purchase.  As always, for best results, seek out the guidance of a licensed massage therapist or acupuncturist and combine professional treatment with self-treatment for optimal health.

Related links:

Big Toe Pain…And Gout is NOT the Diagnosis

5 Ways to Simply and Effectively Treat Common Pregnancy Aches and Pains

English: Close up of the belly of a pregnant w...

Pregnancy Aches and Pains

A growing fetus can create joint and muscular problems for the mother-to-be.  As muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the body try to stretch and adapt, these tissues can get strained.  When overworked, the tissue pain will occur either in the attached joint, or in the muscle itself.

The Sciaticare Ball, by August Point Wellness, is a simple, versatile tool that can help ease the aches and pains during the second and third trimesters, when the fetus is nearing its maximum size.  The Sciaticare Ball is designed to provide accurate therapeutic pressure (through the user’s own bodyweight) to relieve muscular tightness and spasms.  The Ball is meant to be used as often as possible during pregnancy to help keep muscles loose and promote healthy blood circulation.  Here are 5 key ways the Sciaticare Ball can simply and effectively treat the common muscular aches and pains of pregnancy:

1.   Sciatic pain – The Sciaticare Ball was originally created to treat sciatic pain, hence the name.  In the last trimester, women are forced to change sleeping positions frequently.  One of these positions, side-sleeping, pulls at the lateral hip and gluteal muscles which can compress the sciatic nerve to cause pain to shoot down the legs.  Stretching the hips may not be physically possible with a prominent baby belly, but with the Sciaticare Ball, muscular trigger points and acupressure points in the hips and glutes can be easily deactivated for this pregnancy related sciatica.

Treat the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, and piriformis muscle trigger points.  Also treat nearby tender points in the gluteal region.

2.  Low back pain – Low back pain is probably the most common complaint during pregnancy.  The location of the growing baby coupled with the stretching of the abdominal muscles force the lower back structure to handle tremendous upper body support duties.

To treat low back pain, use the Sciaticare Ball in a seated or lying position.  Treat the quadratus lumborum, gluteus medius and soleus muscles.  These three muscles are key to maintaining an upright posture.The erector spinae of the back can also be treated as they also assist to carry extra muscular load.

3.  Upper back pain – As breasts increase in size, shoulder stabilizer muscles must work to keep the shoulder blades retracted.  Tired muscles in the upper back will cause one to slouch and lead to aching pain between and around the shoulder blades.  Since the upper back is easily accessible, there are a multitude of upper back acupressure and trigger points that can be massaged away using the Sciaticare Ball.

Use the Sciaticare Ball in a standing, seated or lying position.  Treat the rear head of deltoid, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, rhomboids, erector spinae, and upper trapezius muscles.  Take time and work these points often for relief.

4.  Foot pain – As the feet bear extra weight, the muscles are put under more pressure during walking.  Keeping the lower leg and foot muscles loose and supple will reduce the heart’s effort in pumping blood throughout.  The benefits gained from treating the lower leg and feet are tremendous, such as: lowered blood pressure, improved lymphatic drainage (less edema and swelling), reduced fatigue, alleviated plantar fasciitis and foot pain.

Treat these muscles with the Sciaticare Ball in a standing, seated, or lying position.  Roll the arches of the foot on the ball to treat intrinsic foot muscles.  Treat the popliteus, gastrocnemius and soleus muscles while sitting on the floor with the legs straight out in front.  Daily deactivation of these muscles will do much to improve overall health during pregnancy.

5.  Neck pain –  With the entire spinal column curving to accommodate a baby, the cervical spine must adapt as well.  Thus, neck pain can often become an additional burden during pregnancy.  If neck muscles get tight enough, they can contribute to sleep problems (insomnia), headaches, and balance issues.

The easiest way to treat the neck muscles with the Sciaticare Ball is to lay down on the floor and cup the ball with the hands.  Place the Ball behind the neck and use the hands to push the ball into the acupressure or trigger points in the back of the neck from the base of the skull down to the shoulders.  Treat the suboccipital muscles, levator scapulae, and upper trapezius muscles.

  

The Sciaticare Ball is a wonderful addition to an overall prenatal program and gives the pregnant mother the power to treat some of her conditions herself and in the privacy of her own home.  With the valuable reward of learning how to focus on her own health, the mother can become more in tune with herself and her baby during the entire prenatal period. The Sciaticare Ball can also be used in conjunction with a mother’s alternative health care provider’s natural and drug-free prenatal treatment plan.

For more information, or to find out how to use the Sciaticare Ball, please visit us at:

http://www.augustpoint.com

Related Links:

Effective Pregnancy Hemorrhoid Acupuncture Points (augustpoint.wordpress.com)

Joint Pain is Not Always Arthritis

Over 50 million Americans have been doctor-diagnosed with some form of arthritis.  Most of these cases have chronic joint pain associated with them, which is the typical reason for the doctor visit.  There is a correlation between arthritis and chronic joint pain, but not all chronic joint pain is arthritis.  Yet, the general public has been led to believe that arthritis is the primary reason for joint pain.  Although sometimes true, not all joint pain should be equated to arthritis.  In fact, a significant portion of joint related pain is not due to the joint at all.

Joint movement occurs because of muscle contraction.  For instance, quadriceps muscles on the front of the thigh extend the knee, while hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh flex the knee.  When the quadriceps muscles are activated, the hamstring muscles deactivate to allow for reduced resistance during motion of knee extension.  The opposite holds true such that hamstrings activate and quadriceps deactivate in knee flexion.  This is Sherrington’s law of reciprocal inhibition.

Muscular Forces From Quadriceps Can Cause Knee Joint Pain

When muscles are tight, the connected joint can get pulled in multiple directions.  (See image for example of quadriceps muscle forces pulling on the knee joint.)  The line of force on the joint is always along the length of the muscle.  When severe enough, the unbalanced muscular forces can actually alter the movement of the joint and cause repetitive joint stress to the point of pain.  This pain can mimic a plethora of arthritic conditions.  The interesting feature of muscular-related joint pain is that the muscles don’t often exhibit pain themselves.  Hence, the muscular spasm or tightness tends to escape detection as the true source of the joint problem.

Muscular-induced joint pain is the most common reason for joint pain.  It is also the most-missed cause of joint pain for the reason stated earlier, in that a muscle will often cause joint pain before the muscle elicits pain itself.  Differentiating arthritis from muscular-induced joint pain is key in determining the proper treatment solution for the patient.  Otherwise, joint pain that can be fixed through non-invasive methods will either persist or worse, lead the patient towards an unnecessary surgical procedure.

The moral of the story here is that arthritis is just one component of joint pain.  Muscles that are tight, overused, and/or imbalanced with its antagonist muscles cause joint pain as well and can resemble arthritis pain and other degenerative joint disease.  Any doctor or medical professional who claims joint pain is completely due to arthritis or other rheumatic joint disease has missed a compelling piece of the diagnostic puzzle, the role of the muscle.

If one is looking for a natural muscle rub to help in treatment of muscular induced joint pain and arthritis, August Point Wellness carries the Sciaticare Brand Penetrating Muscle Rub.  It is an all natural alternative to Ben-Gay, Tiger Balm, Icy Hot, and others.

Related articles

 

Misdiagnosis of Arthritis

Arthritis is a common complaint for many, especially as one gets older.  The sufferer doesn’t understand why they have joint pain and thus commits to a battery of procedures including X-rays, MRI’s, blood panels, medical reports, etc.  Sometimes, definitive sources of pain are found and the tests show severe tissue degradation or arthritic markers in the blood. But more commonly, the tests do not reveal sufficient evidence to prove that arthritis is even present.

This situation has played out countless times.  Data wrought with uncertainties leads to a shaky conclusion.  The patient is in pain and is looking for an answer.  The doctor, wanting to ease the patient’s concerns, may be too eager to point a finger at any anomaly found in the test results. The diagnosis of “I don’t know” or “I’m not quite sure” is unacceptable for most patients and the blame is directed at arthritis, a somewhat fuzzy amalgamation of signs and symptoms.  Patients easily accept arthritic pain diagnosis as a byproduct of the aging process, but  more testing is necessary to reveal the true source of the joint pain.

Here are a few reasons why arthritis is often misdiagnosed:

  • Doctors see something atypical in an x-ray – and immediately make a diagnosis.  No body is perfect.  There are abnormalities and variances in every human being’s anatomical structure.  Even movement and joint articulation will vary from person to person.  Finding an aberrant nodule or lesion somewhere in the joint capsule does not mean that arthritis is present.  Saying this, one must consider the idea that x-rays from two individuals showing the same joint abnormality may not create identical pain responses. Moreover, the two people may show considerable difference in the amount and type of pain elicited, even so far as to say that one may not show any local pain whatsoever.  Therefore, x-rays should be used as one part of a complete diagnostic exam, not the be all end all.  Especially in marginal to inconclusive scenarios, x-rays should accompany other positive test findings to make a more developed diagnosis.  Each patient should be evaluated on an individual basis.
  • Patients don’t get a second opinion – and rely on one doctor’s diagnosis.  Doctors make mistakes.  It is quite possible for an arthritis diagnosis to be incorrect, especially when symptoms do not fully fit the criteria of rheumatism.  The chances of a misdiagnosis are reduced if a second (or even third) opinion is sought out.  Additionally, patients should make an assessment of their doctor.  Pay attention to how they are being treated in his/her office.  If the doctor seems preoccupied, doesn’t listen, never tests the painful area, quickly prescribes medication, then maybe this doctor isn’t providing adequate patient care and attention.  Find a doctor who will listen.  Yes, some doctors may be good enough to take one look at the patient and figure out what’s wrong.  But these doctors are very few and far between.
  • Age is a believable reason for arthritis – Age is so often used as an excuse for joint pain that it goes without question.  It’s a sad affair that keeps perpetuating generation after generation.  Age is not the unquestionable cause of all joint pain.  Joint pain can be caused by numerous factors, including muscular imbalance, bone subluxation, inactivity, and postural deficiencies as well as the often stated age-related joint deterioration.  Uncovering the true source of pain is key to understanding what is truly wrong.

These are just a few thoughts on why arthritis gets misdiagnosed.  In order to lessen the risk of misdiagnosis, the patient should take a hands-on active approach to personal health.  It is always the responsibility of the patient to become an advocate for their own health, not the doctor’s.  It is also the responsibility of the patient to learn about their own pain.  Ask questions from your doctor.  Find groups with people experiencing similar conditions.  Learn what helps one’s own joint pain and what eases it. In this age of information, there are a lot of resources online.  Visit the doctor armed with some knowledge and understanding of the pain in question. It will go a long way towards achieving an accurate diagnosis and thus, a more comprehensive, effective solution.

Brachialis, The Baby Carrying Muscle

In His Arms

In His Arms (Photo credit: Kate Dreyer)

One of the ways that adults carry their little one is by placing the child on a flexed forearm and pulling him or her close to the body. The bulk of the supported weight is over the lower arm.  This position stresses the muscles that work to maintain this position.  Many times, the parent doesn’t have the strength or stamina to keep the arm flexed for long periods of time.  But they try their best to hold their child, especially if baby cannot walk yet.  Thus, the weak and/or tired muscles can be injured to the point where the act becomes difficult or painful.  Although the biceps (as well as the brachioradialis) participate, the dominant muscle used to carry your baby is the lesser known brachialis.

The brachialis is a thick muscle that lies underneath the biceps on the lower half of the humerus.  Like the biceps brachii and brachioradialis, the brachialis assists in flexing the elbow.  Unlike the biceps and brachioradialis, the brachialis has only one function.  This single function causes the brachialis to be engaged during every elbow flexing motion.

Typical problems with the brachialis can be seen with weakness and/or discomfort in picking up a heavy baby, carrying groceries, or holding arms outstretched.  Some brachialis problems make straightening the arm difficult.  Pain is typically felt in one or more of the following locations:  anterior portion of the shoulder, outer portion of the upper arm, inner portion of elbow crease, and in the thumb.

Brachialis problems can exist as trigger points, or tender areas in the muscle.  The good news is that moms, dads, and relatives can work out these trigger points on themselves and bring significant relief in a short amount of time.  The brachialis muscle can be easily massaged with the thumb of the opposite hand.  The first place to treat is the outer portion of the arm between the biceps and triceps.  Located on the lower half of the humerus bone, the brachialis feels lumpy to the touch.  Massage this area, especially working the area near the outer edge of the biceps.  The next place to treat is inside the elbow crease. Because the brachialis attaches to the ulna just below the elbow crease, it’s possible to address brachialis tenderness from this spot.  Use the thumb to massage around the medial epicondyle, paying particular attention to the muscular area just toward the inside.

English: Location of UCL injury

English: Medial Epicondyle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Other ways of treating the brachialis are by using a massage tool.  August Point Wellness offer a multipurpose trigger point massage tool called the Sciaticare Ball that can treat brachialis pain as well as many other muscular complaints.  Other useful hand tools assist in applying firm pressure to massage away trigger points.  A massage therapist or acupuncturist can professionally assess your pain and treat not only the brachialis, but the surrounding areas as well.  Most times, a few visit will be required to fully relieve the pain and discomfort.  Exercise and stretching should also recommended to help keep the brachialis muscle strong and allow you enjoy carrying your baby for longer periods, pain free.

Related Material:

Brachialis Muscle Trigger Point Therapy Using the Sciaticare Ball

The Burden of the Brachialis

Brachialis - Muscles of the Upper Extremity Vi...

Brachialis – Muscles of the Upper Extremity Visual Atlas, page 48 (Photo credit: robswatski)

The brachialis is the underappreciated workhorse of elbow flexion.  When one is asked to show their muscle, usually the biceps brachii takes the spotlight.  Both the brachialis and biceps flex the elbow, so why isn’t the brachialis muscle as popular?  The answer is because much of the brachialis is hidden underneath the biceps and cannot be seen.  The brachialis is surprisingly strong and doesn’t get the credit it deserves.  Many times, it doesn’t get the care it deserves either.

The main function of the brachialis muscle is to flex the elbow.  It works with the biceps brachii, brachioradialis and supinator.  Certain positions engage the brachialis more or less during elbow flexion yet there is variability in contraction of the muscle in each position.  Therefore, assessment of brachialis pain requires some skill and good technique.

Pain and spasm in the brachialis muscle can come about from activity such as lifting heavy objects or holding the arm in flexion for long periods of time.  Playing instruments such as a saxophone or guitar can trigger brachialis pain over time.  Other activities, such as typing on a computer while arms are unsupported, or carrying groceries can elicit a tight brachialis.

An injured or tight brachialis commonly causes pain in one or more of four locations.  Local pain may be felt on the outer portion of the humerus where the brachialis can be palpated.  Pain may also be felt near the muscular point of attachment on the proximal part of the ulna.  Referred pain may be felt at the base of the thumb on the same side as the affected brachialis.  The ipsilateral anterior shoulder or deltoid may also show tenderness from referred brachialis pain.

A muscle spasm or just plain tightness in the brachialis can impinge the radial nerve.  Symptoms of this nerve irritation affect the thumb and give the person a feeling of tingling or numbness in the thumb.  Since only the sensory portion of the nerve is affected, loss of strength in the thumb is not seen.

Much of the treatment for the brachialis can be done at home using the thumb of the opposite hand.  A massage tool could also be helpful for stubborn trigger points or muscle spasm.  Your alternative health practitioner can also be of great help, especially if one is searching for a natural healing therapy.

At August Point Wellness, we believe that many of the brachialis muscle issues can be addressed through acupuncture, massage therapy, and self-care.

An example treatment that we would use to address tight brachialis:

Why a Pregnant Woman Should Massage Her Soleus Muscles

A pregnant woman

Soleus Muscle Massage is Good For Mother and Baby

Pregnancy can be tough on the body.  Although a woman’s body is made to nurture and carry a fetus for 10 months, it does not mean that the task is easy.  Her physical structure will change to accommodate the additional load in the front.  The mother’s joints will become more relaxed and flexible to distribute the extra weight.  Her blood supply increases by approximately 30-40%.  Increases in breathing rate and cardiac output provide ample oxygen to both mother and growing baby.

With the increased need for cardiac output, the heart works harder to pump blood throughout the mother’s body as well as the fetus.  Keeping the circulation vessels (arteries, veins, capillaries) relaxed, open, and clear ease the heart’s pumping obligations.  Managing bodyweight, keeping an adequate fitness level, and maintaining a healthy diet are three things that are recommended before and during pregnancy to help a woman reduce her cardiovascular burden.  But, something that can greatly improve cardiovascular efficiency and reduce vascular resistance is soleus muscle massage.

The soleus muscles are large flat muscles of the calves located between the posterior knee and heel.  They lie underneath the gastrocnemius at the superior end and tie into the Achilles tendon at the inferior end.  The soleus muscles are situated adjacent to the deep veins that help transport blood back to the heart.  When the soleus contracts during walking, running, or jumping, it acts as a pump for venous blood returning to the heart.  The soleus is such a powerful pump, it has been dubbed the ‘second heart’.

Muscles of lower extremity

Muscles of lower extremity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The importance of the soleus muscles in pumping blood cannot be understated.  If they are strong, supple, active, and functioning to capacity, the soleus can synergistically work with the heart and pump blood efficiently throughout the pregnant woman‘s body.  But if the soleus muscles are tight and/or in spasm, the heart does not get the extra assistance.  Unfortunately, the heart will then work alone and be forced to pump that much harder.  Additionally, tight soleus muscles can restrict blood flow significantly and lead to swelling, edema, high blood pressure, varicose veins, phlebitis, posterior compartment syndrome, increased breathlessness, and other complications.  Tight soleus muscles can also trigger low back pain, which can amplify pregnancy related lumbago.

Treatment of soleus muscles should ideally be sought throughout the entire pregnancy.  Acupuncture and massage therapy are two drug-free solutions that can provide marked results while also giving the mother-to-be a chance to relax during treatment session.  With regular treatments, a woman can reduce lethargy and fatigue, improve emotional state, minimize painful edema and swelling, lower blood pressure, reduce back pain, lower respiratory exertion, and improve her overall state of being.

A sample treatment at our clinic would be: