Put your best feet forward! Foot health and massage therapy

By: Jessica Zatylny-Koch, RPN, RMT

Jessica is a registered practical nurse and registered massage therapist with advanced training in foot and leg care. In her mobile foot-care practice and as a massage therapist, Jessica has witnessed how improved foot health contributes to better health for the whole body.


Feet are one area of the body that often gets neglected!

This could be because they are the furthest things from our brains or possibly because they are hidden throughout the day. They are, however, extremely important not only for ambulation and bringing us everywhere we need to go, but for the overall health of our body. Continue reading

What a tangled web we weave… the story of fascia

What is Fascia?

Fascia is a connective tissue that weaves itself throughout the entire body like a fine fabric. Its seamless arrangement is amazing at providing continuity and preserving the unique architecture of the human body. However, its interconnected nature also illustrates why a disruption to its integrity can lead to pain and dysfunction down its entire length as well to neighbouring tissues.

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Tugging on My Hamstrings

Muscle of the month: The Hamstrings (biceps femoris, semimembranosus, semitendinosus)

The hamstrings consist of three distinct muscles that make up the bulk of the posterior thigh. Working opposite to the quadriceps (remember The Thigh Who Loved Me?), like a pulley, these powerful muscles provide mobility, stability, and coordination of the lower extremity. From walking and running, to busting a move on the dance floor, our hamstrings are working hard to keep us moving and grooving.

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Irritated Iliopsoas

Muscle of the month: Iliospoas

Psoas-majorDeep inside your abdomen, beneath your abs and beyond your viscera, lies the elusive iliopsoas.

The iliopsoas is actually a combination of two muscles, psoas major and the iliacus muscle. It spans the area of the lower back and the inside of the hip bone, and then crosses the hip joint where it inserts onto the top of the femur. Pain may occur along any area of its length but is noted as a common source of low back and hip pain.

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A Deep Burn

Muscle of the Month: Levator Scapulae

The levator scapulae muscles lie on either side of your neck and attach to the upper Levator Scapula - Ottawa massage blogportion of your shoulder blade. The levator scapula (lev scap) is cleverly named after its main action: elevating the scapula (your shoulder blade). It is commonly tight, though it often goes unnoticed since the lev scap is deep to the upper trapezius. (Remember the trapezius?! Refresh your memory here.) Trigger points in the lev scap have different referral patterns than those of the upper traps (see below) and can be the true indicator as to which muscle is the problematic one.

Actions – Elevates scapula and rotates scapula clockwise (when neck is in a fixed position). Laterally rotates and flexes head (when shoulder is fixed).

Common Pain Culprit – Head-forward posture (e.g. at a computer); holding heavy purses or bags.

When the levator scapula is in a lengthened position, as with either of the above pain culprits, and then we engage it, it will need to do excess work, resulting in strain. For example, when we carry something heavy in our arms and then try to lift our shoulders, commonly the lev scap can strain. Think about the times you’ve taken an extra bag of groceries instead of making two trips. That burn in your neck is the lev scap working too hard! When you then try to muscle all those groceries up onto the counter, that’s when strain can happen. Look at the trigger point referral pattern below and you will probably remember a time you’ve felt that exact same pain.

Lev Scap TrP - Ottawa Massage Blog

The fix: Stretch and strengthen, and adjust your posture. Stretching the lev scap when you have pain will help the muscle loosen and return to a proper resting state. Strengthening the lev scap is a good preventative measure to allow the muscles to work longer and more effectively, without the strain.

Stretch – A very basic levator scapula stretch, the “sniff your arm pit” stretch, looks like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6umvnWaRm8

Strength – Basic lev scap strengthening can be done wtih dumbell shrugs.

Dumbell shrugs: hold a small weight in each hand and shrug your shoulders as high as possible. Hold for one count and release slowly. Start with three sets of five, and build up to three sets of 12-15 before moving to a heavier weight.

Adjust your posture – At your desk, think of a string with a balloon on top lifting the top of your head toward the ceiling. Keep your ears centred over your shoulders.

Ask your RMT for assistance assessing your posture and the length and strength of your lev scap, and with any of these exercises.