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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One’s Own Sense : A Guide to Proprioception Exercise

Proprioception is the sense that allows our body to organize itself based on how we are oriented in time and space. It is the sense that allows us to coordinate our movement. From multitasking in the kitchen, to a smooth stride when we hit the pavement for a run, proprioception protects us from enduring injuries, and improves our body’s functional efficiency.

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The Calcium + Magnesium Equation

Balance - Ottawa massage blogLike a tight rope walker suspended in mid air, your body too has to find the perfect balance to function properly. The body has its own mechanisms to find the right balance, but understanding those mechanisms will help you help your body. A major equation that is commonly out of balance is that of calcium and magnesium. These days, we put a lot of emphasis on calcium intake, but little on magnesium intake. These two minerals are complementary opposites, and an imbalance can lead to dysfunction.

Calcium - ottawa massage blog

Calcium, as we know, helps create bone. 99% of the body’s calcium is in our bones. The other 1% is in our blood. This blood serum calcium helps the contraction and dilatation of vasculature, muscle function, nerve transmission, and the release of hormones. This 1% is of high importance and the body makes sure there is little fluctuation. An imbalance in this calcium level can lead to disturbed nerve, muscle, hormone, and vessel function.

Magnesium - ottawa massage blogMagnesium is also a large player in bone. 50-60% of magnesium makes up bone structure. The rest is found in soft tissues (muscles, organs, etc.) and 1% is found in the blood. Once again, this 1% must be carefully regulated. Magnesium has a large impact on the body, with 300 biomechanical reactions dependent on it, including healthy nerve, muscle, and heart function.

Are you out of balance?

Calcium deficiency rarely shows acute symptoms, but a lifetime of poor calcium intake may lead to:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Osteopenia
  • Numbness and tingling in fingers

Magnesium deficiency can show symptoms earlier and may lead to:

  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia and sleep disorders
  • Muscle spasm and weakness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low calcium levels

How to get more calcium and magnesium.

Diet: A diet rich in leafy greens and seeds is a diet with ample calcium and magnesium.greens, seeds, milk - ottawa massage blog

Foods rich in calcium: Tofu, collard greens, spinach, bok choy

Foods rich in magnesium: Spinach, swiss chard, beet greens, pumpkin seeds

Supplements: Supplementing a diet that has insufficient calcium and magnesium can be an effective way to achieve daily recommended intake levels. Be sure to research the supplement you are thinking of taking to ensure the type of calcium or magnesium is the type you require and that the dosage is correct.

Epsom salts:  Epsom salts are magnesium salts that allow magnesium to absorb through the skin when used in a bath or compress.Molasses for magnesium - ottawa massage blog

Need a little extra? Black strap molasses is a great source for both calcium and magnesium. Take 2 teaspoons daily.

For more on calcium and magnesium, visit these sources:




Photo credits: Tightrope walker, Wikipedia (free source). Calcium, Magnesium, Greens and seeds, and Spoonful of molasses, Emilie McKay.