How-to: Chin tucks

Head forward posture - Ottawa massage blogMany of us have a posture that massage therapists describe as “forward head carriage”, and that is now also frequently called “text neck”. Computer use and texting are two common reasons for this head position that strains the neck and shoulders, and can contribute to headaches, muscle aches, jaw problems, internally rotated shoulders, and bony changes in the neck and spine.

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. (Otherwise described as having the mastoid process in line with the acromion.)

Correct Neck Posture - Ottawa Massage Blog

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.

If you see yourself more like the first picture, try daily chin tucks to help strengthen your neck muscles and bring your head back into proper position. Here is how to perform them:

Chin tuck - Ottawa Massage Blog

1. Lie down on the floor, your bed, or a massage table.

2. Tuck your chin in towards the spine.

3. Lift your head a few inches off the floor, gazing at the horizon.

4. Hold until fatigue. Rest, and repeat tomorrow.

A strong neck can hold the posture for 45 or more seconds without shaking and without the chin un-tucking.

If you have a weaker neck, do this once a day, every day, and see how fast your strength can improve.

Try it yourself! How long can you hold it?


Bonus exercise: Here’s a video with a short and easy series of self-care tricks from our friends at Heritage Fitness in Carleton Place!

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


View original post 124 more words

Turning your calves into cows

A Soleus - Ottawa massage blogstrong lower leg is a key component in a strong foundation. In fact, if one of your calf muscles – the soleus (pictured at right) – were not in constant contraction, you would fall forward! Not only that, strong calf muscles protect your ankle joint, improve your running and jumping ability, and help blood flow return upward to your heart.

As with most muscles, there are two parts to ensuring strong, healthy calf muscles: strengthening and stretching. This is especially true for the gastrocnemius (the large outer calf muscle – cut away in the diagram at right), which is prone to spasms. Finding the balance between adequate amounts of strengthening and stretching can lower the chance of spasms occurring.

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How-to: Tone your arms at home

As the temperature rises, so do the sleeves. But are your arms ready for the summer? Be it to look good in that summer dress, hit the golf course stronger, or just to live healthier, adding a targeted arm workout to your regime can help you achieve your goals. Read on for a quick arm workout you can do from the comfort of your own home.

Each section has a band exercise and a body-weight exercise. The band exercises target specific parts of the muscles, while the body-weight exercises work the arm as a whole with added core strengthening.


Band exercise

Front raises, lateral raises, rear delt raises: Begin this shoulder series by standing in the centre of your band. Hold the ends of the bands loosely in each hand. With bands in hand, bring your arms forward to 90 degrees and hold. Release back to neutral. Continue exercise by bringing arms to sides and raise to 90 degrees, release back to neutral. Finally, extend arms back as far as possible and release to neutral. Repeat this series 10 times for 3 sets. This exercise works all the deltoid fibres to sculpt a strong shoulder.ottawa_massage_blog_shoulders series


Plank to push-up: Start in a push-up position, arms extendeded fully under shoulders, body flat and resting on tip toes. From this position, bend each arm, one at a time, until you arrive in a plank position on your elbows. Do the same motion to return to push-up position. Repeat by starting with the other arm leading. Do as many as you can in 45 seconds, rest for 15 seconds. Repeat for 3 rounds. Not only do your shoulders get a great workout, so do your abdominals. Perform on your knees if too challenging on toes.

ottawa massage blog - push up to plank


Band exercise

Extensions: Tie your band around a sturdy object that is higher than your head, such as the top of a support beam, a stairway banister or a handle. In the photo below, the band was knotted in the centre and wedged into the top door crack. Begin the exercise with arms at 90 degrees. Slowly extend arms from the elbow, until fully extended. Return to start position. Do this exercise for 12 reps for 3 sets. This exercise isolates your triceps.Ottawa massage blog - tricep extensions


Dips: Prop yourself up on your hands on the edge of a chair. Have your legs extended out fully in front of you. Slowly lower yourself down so that your elbows bend. Once at 90 degrees, press yourself back up to the starting position. Repeat as often as you can in 45 seconds, rest for 15 seconds, for 3 rounds. Not only are you working your triceps here against your own body weight, you are also engaging your core.

Ottawa massage blog - tricep dip


Band exercise

Curls: Tie your band around a sturdy object close to the ground (heavy table leg, support beam). In the photo below, a knot was tied in the centre of the band and it was wedged into the base of a door. Hold the bands loosely in hands with arms resting around 90 degrees. Perform the exercise by slowly bringing the hands towards the shoulders, bending at the elbow. Release back to the starting position. Repeat 12 times for 3 sets. This exercise isolates the biceps. Ottawa massage blog - bicep curls


Bicep push-ups: This exercise is an adaptation of the push-up.  In the push-up position, bring your hands out wider than your shoulders, and rotate out so your thumbs point forward. Lower down to the ground, hugging your elbows close to the body. Repeat as many times you can over a 45-seconds-on, 15-seconds-rest round. Do 3 rounds. This exercise is working your biceps, shoulders, pecs and core. Perform on your knees if too challenging on toes.

ottawa massage blog - bicep pushup

Check in with your RMT to ensure you are performing each exercise correctly, and that they are safe for your body.

How-to: Keep a Strong Core

Your core is the centre of strength in the body. A strong core leads to improved posture, performance, and pain management. The core consists primarily of your abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus, external and internal obliques, transverse abdominus), your lower back muscles (erector spinae, multfidi), your pelvic floor muscles, and your diaphragm (the main breathing muscle). Engaging these muscles whenever you execute a dynamic movement helps to stabilize your body. With a strong core you will find you are less prone to injury, have better balance, and have a more effective reaction time.

Core muscles - Ottawa massage blog

Below we’ve highlighted some key exercises to help improve core strength.

Abdominal Exercise

There are many abdominal exercises you could do to strengthen your core. The one we are highlighting here engages all the abdominal muscles as well as the lower back muscles. It’s the best bang for your buck!

1. Sit on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat. Lean slightly back  until your feet come up off the ground and you are balanced on your tail bone.

2. In the position, interlace your fingers and hold them in front of you, then cross your ankles. This is the starting position.

Ab twist - Ottawa massage blog

3. From the starting position, twist to one side with your torso so your hands reach the floor. Ab twist 2 - Ottawa massage blog

4. Bring yourself back to the starting position and repeat to the other side. Do the whole exercise starting at 5 reps per side for 3 sets. Rest in between each set. Work your way up to more reps as your abdominals build.

Lower Back Exercise

This next exercise is a two-in-one exercise too! We will focus on the low back part of it, but it also engages the abdominals.

1. Lie on the floor, arms to your side, palms up, feet together.

Leg raise - ottawa massage blog

2. Raise your legs so your feet are almost a foot off the ground. Lower the feet so you begin to feel your pelvis tilt and your low back engage. Hold here for 30 seconds. Do this 3 times.

3. To engage the abdominals and get more from this exercise, lift your legs to 90 degrees and lower them. Repeat this slowly for 10 reps and 3 sets.

Ottawa masasge blog - leg raise (3)

Pelvic Floor Exercise

Pelvic floor  ottawa massage blog

Kegel exercises are growing in popularity and are the go-to exercise for the pelvic floor. This is usually a good band wagon to hop on to, as a strong pelvic floor helps with urinary incontinence, gives needed support to the bladder, uterus, small intestine and rectum, and helps generate a strong core. (However, some people do overwork the pelvic floor, so if you do have issues with incontinence, bowel movements, pelvic pain, or related pains, you may benefit from consulting a pelvic floor physiotherapist to make sure you are engaging the correct muscles, to the correct degree.)

Follow these simple steps below.

1. Find the right muscle. Your pelvic floor muscles help stop urine mid-stream. If you are able to do this, you’ve found the right muscle. You should be able to isolate this contraction, without contraction of your abs, glutes or thighs.

2. Start in a relaxed position. Contract, hold for 5 seconds, release for 5 seconds. Slowly work your way up to 10-second contraction and 10-second rest. This should be done for 10 reps, 3 times a day.

(It’s not recommended to do Kegel exercises while urinating, except to check that you are using the right muscle, as this can ultimately interfere with proper emptying of the bladder.)

Diaphragmatic exercise

Crystal Veinot highlighted the diaphragm in her breathing post last month. (Check it out here!) The breathing Crystal taught is a great way to begin to engage the diaphragm. If you already engage your diaphragm, or want a more challenging breath, try this exercise: Sand bag breathing. Sand bag breathing adds resistance to the diaphragm during contraction, allowing it to strengthen.

Sandbag breathing - ottawa massage blog1. Find a sand bag (or a packet of beans, rice, etc.) that is of a comfortable weight, from five pounds (if you are new to this) up to 15 lbs (if you want to challenge yourself).

2. Lie comfortably on the floor and place the bag on your abdomen, right around the end of your rib cage.

3. Begin to breathe diagrammatically. As you inhale, your stomach should expand and the bag should rise. As you exhale, your stomach should slowly collapse back in, and the bag will follow.

4. Do this 1 minute at a time, working yourself up to a comfortable length of time. This exercise should be relaxing, not strenuous.

Your massage therapist can assist you with any of these exercises at your next appointment.

Pelvic floor image courtesy of Image courtesy of

Welcome to Body Poets Massage Therapy

Thanks for joining us on our blog!

As registered massage therapists, we see the world in a specific way. We know what keeps muscles healthy, what breaks them down, and how to repair damage. By sharing our knowledge on topics that matter to you, we contribute to your body’s well-being…so you can live an easier, more comfortable life.

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