The effects of stress – and how massage can help

By: Katherine Pugliese, RYT, RMT

Katherine is passionate about relieving stress through massage and through self-care, which for her includes writing and drawing


Anxiety and depression represent two of the leading health concerns in our society today (Kreitzer, M.J. (2016), “Anxiety and Depression”). Many of us face daily demands and what at times can seem to be overwhelming challenges that cause uncontrollable feelings of anxiety, fear and sadness.

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Holding your head high

As we saw last time, strengthening the deep neck flexors helps to keep the head on straight. But along with attention to the front of the neck, it’s important to improve the health of the suboccipitals at the base of the back of the skull. When taut or irritated, these muscles can cause headaches as well as tension through the jaw, head, and shoulders.

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Muscle of the Month: Suboccipitals

There are eight tiny muscles that have the huge job of keeping your head up, but they can cause a huge headache too! These are your suboccipital muscles. Resting in the nook at the base of the skull, these muscles are essential to fine head movements and in relaying proprioception of your head (where your head is in space and time) to your brain. When out of balance or strained, these muscles can cause temporal headaches and pain with neck movements.

Suboccipital - ottawa massage blog Rectus Capitis Posterior Minor

Suboccipital - ottawa massage blog Rectus Capitis Posterior Major

Actions – 

Rectus Capitis Posterior Major: Rock and tilt head back into extension, rotate head to same side

Rectus Capitis Posterior Minor: Rock and tilt head back into extension

Suboccipital - ottawa massage blog Oblique Capitis Superios

Suboccipital - ottawa massage blog Oblique Capitis Inferior

Oblique Capitis Superior: Rock and tilt head back into extension

Oblique Capitis Inferior: Rotate head to same side

Common pain culprit – Eye…

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How-to: Chin tucks

Let’s balance our talk of the trapezius muscles on the back of the body with some attention to the deep neck flexors in the front. Here’s a simple daily exercise to improve posture and reduce muscle strain in the neck and shoulders.

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Head forward posture - Ottawa massage blog

How often do we see people walking around like this? How often do you catch yourself in this position!? This is forward head posture. If you have forward head posture, worry no more – we are here to teach you a very simple correcting exercise called chin tucks. Chin tucks are a simple way of strengthening your deep neck flexors, realigning your cervical (neck) spine and reducing forward head posture.

For those who don’t know, forward head posture is an increase in the curve of the cervical spine. This increase in curve can cause many symptoms like neck pain, tension headaches, TMJ dysfunction, and internally rotated shoulders, to name a few.

Then what is correct head posture?  To achieve correct head posture and for your neck to be in neutral, your earlobe should line up with the mid-point of your shoulder. (Mastoid process in line with acromion.) See below.

Correct Neck Posture - Ottawa Massage Blog

If…

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The Trapezius, part 2 – Super posture!

The trapezius muscles are commonly overworked and tense, and cause much of the upper back, shoulder, neck, and headache pain that prompt us to go for massage. Understanding and caring for your traps will reduce your pain and let you feel better. Last week, we looked at the upper traps. This week, we complete the picture with the middle and lower traps.

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Monthly Muscle: Trapezius

Trapezius sections - Ottawa massage blogThe middle and inferior traps fill the space from just below the top of the shoulder blades in a V down to the lower third of the back (the red and pink sections in the diagram to the right). Along with the upper traps, which we saw last week, these two muscles help move and support your shoulder blades and spine.

Middle Trapezius: The posture corrector

Actions – Pulls shoulder blades towards spine

Common pain culprit – Slouching; Internally rotated shoulders

If you work at a computer, wear a back pack or workout your pecs too much, you probably have internally rotated shoulders. With internally rotated shoulders, comes weakness in the middle trapezius. This happens because the internal rotation is drawing the shoulder blades farther from the spine, keeping the middle trapezius in a constant stretch position. Pain arises because the muscle no longer has the…

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The Trapezius – that pain in your neck!

The trapezius muscles are commonly overworked and tense, and cause much of the upper back, shoulder, neck, and headache pain that prompt us to go for massage. Understanding and caring for your traps will reduce your pain and let you feel better.

Body Poets Massage Therapy

Monthly Muscle: Trapezius

The trapezius, often known as the “trap”, is a large muscle that occupies 2/3 of your back.  Divided into three parts, the trapezius muscle has a variety of actions that help move your neck, shoulder blade and spine. This muscle has a tendency to be out of balance due to our typical western posture: hunched over a computer for hours a day. Today we will learn about the upper part of the muscle: what it does, why it hurts, how to help it. Check in soon for the next segment on the middle and lower trapezius!

Trapezius - Ottawa massage blog

Upper Trapezius: That pain in your neck.

Actions – Bends head to side, extends head back, rotates head to opposite side.

Common pain culprit – Head forward posture and hiked-up shoulders.

Neck Pain - Ottawa massage blog

Many clients will exclaim that their shoulders are “hard as rocks”. What you are really feeling are the tensed fibers…

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Vote for us in the 2017 Top Choice Awards

Many of you threw your support behind us in 2016, and we were thrilled to be voted Ottawa’s Top Massage Therapist in 2016.

Voting has opened for the 2017 Top Choice Awards, and we hope we might have your vote as top massage clinic again this year!

Top Choice Award Nominee 2016

Thank you for your continued support and patronage,

The Body Poets Massage Therapy team