Hello, everyone! This is Dr. Bob Salamon with Lowcountry Chiropractic. As always, I hope you’re doing well and staying healthy! The past few weeks have brought freezing rain and consistent cold fronts to the Lowcountry. Winter can affect our bodies in a myriad of ways. Spending more time indoors and exercising less can contribute to stiff muscles and achiness, both of which make performing our daily activities a downright chore. The reason cold weather affects our bodies in this manner is due to a phenomenon known as heat transference. When surrounded by cold air, our muscles lose heat and contract, resulting in tension. As our muscles tighten, our joints become limited in their range of motion and our nerves can become pinched. Overall, this is a recipe for aches and pains. You should be practicing a much longer warm-up routine before exercising to reduce your likelihood of injury. (A good rule-of-thumb is to warm up for at least ten minutes. For every ten degrees the temperature drops below 35°F, you should add another five minutes to your warm-up.) You should also be investing in regular massages. While massages may seem like an extraordinary luxury, they should be viewed as a fundamental wellness tool, alongside diet and exercise. In today’s article, I’d like to discuss the benefits of massage therapy, as well as how different kinds of massage techniques target specific ailments.
Massage therapy and chiropractic care go hand-in-hand. Spinal manipulation–or any manual adjustment–relies upon the soft tissues of the body, chiefly the muscles. When our muscles are tight and unyielding, the efficacy of a chiropractic adjustment might be capped far below its full potential. Massage therapy is the antidote. Practiced in ancient India as far back as 3000 BC, massage therapy has always sought to promote relaxation and pain relief through the application of concerted pressure on the muscles. In ancient China, massage therapy was one of three medicinal practices (i.e. acupuncture, acupressure, and herbal remedies). The ancient Egyptians added in reflexology–applying pressure to specific points across the body–while the ancient Japanese developed a technique designed to rebalance energy levels–known as Shiatsu. Around the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, massage therapy was elevated to the peak of medicine and made a staple of daily life, in the same way diet and exercise are today. In short, massage therapy has always held a special place in pain management and the cultivation of personal wellness.
The long history of massage therapy is, in and of itself, a testament to the efficacy of massage therapy. However, these scientific studies serve to peel back the curtain of how massage therapy is so effective. According to a set of randomized, controlled trials on pain populations, a 2016 study revealed: “massage therapy, compared to no treatment, should be strongly recommended as a pain management option.” Further, the study indicated massage therapy had a beneficial impact on treating anxiety and health-related quality of life. A research review published in the Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice journal, states “massage therapy has been shown to have beneficial effects on varying conditions including prenatal depression, preterm infants, full-term infants, autism, skin conditions, pain syndromes including arthritis and fibromyalgia, hypertension, autoimmune conditions including asthma and multiple sclerosis, immune conditions including HIV and breast cancer and aging problems including Parkinson's and dementia. Although many of the studies have involved comparisons between massage therapy and standard treatment control groups, several have compared different forms of massage (e.g. Swedish versus Thai massage), and different active therapies such as massage versus exercise. Typically, the massage therapy groups have experienced more positive effects than the control or comparison groups. This may relate to the massage therapy providing more stimulation of pressure receptors, in turn enhancing vagal activity and reducing Cortisol levels.”
Think about when you feel a slight twinge in your neck or an ache in your shoulder. What’s the first thing you do? You rub the area, don’t you? This rubbing–combined with the application of consistent pressure–causes blood to flow to the affected area. This blood is warm and full of oxygen. Remember how our muscles tighten when confronted with cold air? Well, they do the opposite when confronted with warmth. They relax. (There’s a reason we take warm baths when our muscles are sore.) As our muscles relax, they gain elasticity, allowing us greater freedom of movement. Massages focus on muscle groups that are tight, restricted, and full of fascia. Fascia is “a thin casing of connective tissue that surrounds and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber, and muscle in place. The tissue does more than provide internal structure; fascia has nerves that make it almost as sensitive as skin. When stressed, it tightens up.” Fascia is composed of a liquid called hyaluronan and this liquid can dry out, resulting in fascia which is thick and unyielding. When we develop “knots,” these are actually bits of fascia clinging to our muscles. Increased blood flow can soften this fascia, reduce myofascial pain, resolve adhesions and restore muscular elasticity.
Not all massages target fascia. Not all massages are for pain relief, either. For example, a hot stone massage might promote blood flow and ease muscle tension, but it's primarily used to relieve stress. Likewise, an aromatherapy massage focuses on the use of essential oils to cultivate a relaxing experience. Swedish massages and deep tissue massages are better suited for those living with chronic pain conditions or who have restricted mobility due to fascia lesions. They achieve results in two distinct ways.
The Swedish massage was introduced by a Swedish doctor named Per Henrik Ling. Ling was a professional gymnast, as well, and his method of relieving pain was adapted into the style we recognize today as the Swedish massage by Johan George Mezger. The Swedish massage is broken down into four key movements, each of which serves to elicit a specific response from the body. Effleurage consists of gliding the hands along the body, from the extremities inward, towards the heart. Petrissage includes the rhythmic kneading of tissue. Tapotement involves striking with the sides of the hands (as seen on many television shows). Finally, friction delves into the deep tissue and uses sustained pressure to target lesions. A Swedish massage can be used to relieve knots and to relax. It’s a perfect option for those who are new to massages or are sensitive to the touch.
Massages, though utilized for pain relief, can have the opposite effect when used without discretion. As blood flows to areas which have been deprived, you’re likely to feel these areas more keenly. An intense, hour-long deep tissue massage may not be right for someone who is beginning their massage journey. Either the experience will be painful or the aftermath will ward you off of going back and we don’t want that. It’s important to speak to your massage therapist beforehand, to give them a sense of your massage experiences in the past. If it’s your first time, ask them to start off light. When they apply pressure, if anything begins to hurt, ask them to be lighter. The benefits of massage therapy can take several sessions to manifest fully. It’s okay to take your time.
A deep tissue massage, as you might’ve guessed, targets the deepest layers of muscle and connective tissue possible. If you deal with chronic pain, flare-up from old injuries, or even anxiety, this type of massage may be able to help you along your healing journey. Your therapist will employ many of the same techniques used in a Swedish massage, but they will apply considerably more pressure. Be prepared to drink plenty of water afterward and to experience a bit of soreness (especially after your first time). Deep tissue massages can be used to stimulate lymphatic drainage, but only a specialized massage therapist should perform a deep tissue massage on those with lymphedema (as improper massage techniques could trigger swelling).
The wonderful thing about massages is their immediate efficacy. Many patients walk out of a massage feeling like a brand-new person! Increased mobility, improved blood flow, and pain relief will do that! At Lowcountry Chiropractic we offer both Swedish and deep tissue massages, performed by experienced massage therapists. There’s no reason to live with lower back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, or headaches. Regular massage therapy is a proven method for helping the body to heal and self-regulate. Send us an email or give us a call to schedule your massage appointment today! When used in conjunction with chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy can hasten your journey to a pain-free life. As always, this is Dr. Bob and I have your back covered!
Hello, everyone! This is Dr. Bob Salamon with Lowcountry Chiropractic. As always, I hope you’re doing well and staying healthy! The beginning of each year presents an opportunity to reassess our habits and realign with our health goals. The pains of the past are better left in last year and I sincerely hope those of you dealing with chronic or recurring pain find lasting relief this year. This is also the time to check in with ourselves and take an honest look at how we’ve been feeling. Minor symptoms–such as numbness of the hands and feet–though seemingly innocuous can point to underlying conditions. Today we’ll be discussing peripheral neuropathy. What is peripheral neuropathy? How can you spot the signs? What causes peripheral neuropathy? And, of course, how can chiropractic care help address the root cause of peripheral neuropathy? If you’re interested in learning more, you’ve come to the right place!
Our peripheral nerves consist of those nerves which extend outside of the central nervous system. The nerves in our brain and spinal cord are considered central nerves, as they are responsible for the execution of every single process and biological activity within our bodies. The nerves which travel outward from the central nervous system–into our arms, legs, fingers, toes, organs and the like–are considered peripheral nerves, as they are suited on the “periphery.” Our peripheral nervous system is split into two subsets: the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the somatic nervous system (SNS). The autonomic nervous system controls those functions which are involuntary, such as our fight-or-flight response, our blood pressure, our heart rate, the dilation or contraction of our pupils, our metabolism and much more. The somatic nervous system, on the other hand, controls those functions which are mostly voluntary, such as our muscle movements, our reflexes, and our senses. Our SNS nerves help us to recognize when we feel too cold or too hot, recognize textures, and detect light.
As you’ve surely gathered by now, the peripheral nervous system plays a complex and vital role in how we live and operate. When these nerves are damaged, this is what’s known as peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by any number of conditions or incidents. For example, a traumatic injury can result in nerve damage. An infection or immune disorder can attack the nerves, resulting in peripheral neuropathy. Likewise, metabolic conditions–such as diabetes–are known to cause peripheral neuropathy. In the case of diabetes, diabetic neuropathy is the combined result of high blood sugar (which damages nerves and impedes their ability to send signals), weakened capillary walls (also caused by high blood sugar), and diabetic complications (such as kidney damage). Exposure to toxins–such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and thallium, as well as some insecticides–can also result in peripheral neuropathy. Persistent drug addiction and alcoholism contribute to a higher risk of developing peripheral neuropathy, along with deficiencies in B-1, B-6, B-12, vitamin E, and niacin. If you have a family history of neuropathy, you’re likely predisposed.
Unfortunately, the potential symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are as varied as the potential causes. Peripheral neuropathy is most commonly associated with numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. You might find you’re suddenly sensitive to temperatures, reacting adversely to touch, or feeling pain without a cause. You might experience a decrease of muscle control and a lack of coordination. Instead of numbness, you might experience a burning sensation, or a prickling feeling. You might feel a slight pressure on your limbs, as though you’re wearing gloves and socks, even when you aren’t. You might experience temporary paralysis of certain muscles, sweat excessively, find heat intolerable, or experience sudden bouts of dizziness. Since the peripheral nerves play a part in so many processes, you might experience changes to your bowels, your bladder, or your digestive functions. Many of these symptoms are also common for other conditions, such as menopause or vertigo. What sets peripheral neuropathy apart?
Well, it’s difficult to say. Before being diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, a medical provider will first perform a physical examination. Then, a neurological evaluation. Both of these exams will help to rule out the existence of an underlying or separate condition, which may be causing or mimicking the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. If these exams do not yield conclusive evidence, an electromyography might be ordered. An electromyography (also known as an EMG) is used to test the electrical activity of a muscle. If the nerves in your hands or feet are damaged, an EMG will be able to tell. Usually, simultaneously with an EMG, your doctor will conduct a nerve conduction test. In a recent article, I wrote about nerve conduction tests being used to confirm carpal tunnel syndrome. Indeed, carpal tunnel is a form of peripheral neuropathy. There are three kinds of peripheral neuropathy. The first kind is mononeuropathy, in which only one nerve is affected. (In the case of CPS, a mononeuropathy, the median nerve is the only nerve affected.) When two or more nerves are affected, this is known as multiple mononeuropathy. When many nerves are affected, this is known as polyneuropathy. Polyneuropathy is the most common form of peripheral neuropathy. After peripheral neuropathy is confirmed, your doctor may run a blood or urine test to determine if toxins are responsible.
The key to treating peripheral neuropathy is to figure out what’s causing the nerve damage. If there’s a toxin, the toxin needs to be removed from the body and, subsequently, from the diet or environment. If you have diabetes, you’ll need to determine a plan for regulating your blood sugar levels, so as not to exacerbate the issue. If an ongoing infection is the cause, antibiotics will be prescribed. If an immune disorder is the cause, you might be prescribed immunosuppressants, to prevent your body from inflicting further damage on your nerves. Beyond treating the cause of the nerve damage, there aren’t many treatments specifically for peripheral neuropathy. Special shoes can be ordered, to help relieve the pressure placed on these nerves. Over-the-counter pain medications are often recommended to deal with the daily discomfort. When those become insufficient, prescription pain medication might be prescribed.
For those who do not want to be reliant on pain medication, what are their options? Well, that’s where chiropractic treatment comes in. A study published in the Neuroreport in 2018 sought to better understand the association between low-velocity variable amplitude spinal manipulation and the relief of lower back pain (especially in patients with “neuropathic radiating leg pain following peripheral nervous system insult”) by using animal models. The results of the study revealed low-velocity variable amplitude spinal manipulation (i.e. manual therapy) had an analgesic–that is to say pain-relieving–effect on the rats in the study.
As we’ve discussed on this blog before, the primary purpose of chiropractic care is to relieve subluxations. Subluxations are the result of displaced vertebrae placing undue pressure on spinal nerves and thus impeding their function. Chiropractic care, traditionally, clears a path for the body to heal itself by freeing up these nerves. Following this, chiropractic care can be used to mitigate the painful effects of peripheral neuropathy. Once you’ve determined the cause of the nerve damage and enacted lifestyle changes to combat the issue (i.e. medication, diet, exercise), the next step is to formulate a treatment plan with your chiropractic care provider. Spinal decompression treatment allows irritated nerves to heal properly, while massage therapy can stimulate blood flow to the affected areas.
Solving peripheral neuropathy isn’t a three-step process, nor is chiropractic care the cure-all for such a condition. Truthfully, while some cases of peripheral neuropathy can be healed, other cases are irreversible. Around 60% of diabetics will experience peripheral neuropathy at some point in their lives. Further, the physical effects of diabetes on the body make healing those damaged nerves difficult. That said, no one should have to accept a reality of daily pain. While some peripheral neuropathy cases cannot be reversed, they can be mitigated, contained, and alleviated. Send us an email or give us a call. We’ll set you up with an appointment here at Lowcountry Chiropractic and develop a long-term treatment plan to address your peripheral neuropathy. The sooner you begin treatment and lifestyle changes, the better your quality of life will be! It’s certainly a journey–which can take months or even years–but you are not alone. Let Lowcountry Chiropractic help you live a pain-free life. As always, this is Dr. Bob and I have your back covered
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