Posts tagged ‘exeter’

Looking for persons to be involved as clinical massage case studies or to receive occasional sessions (Exeter, UK only!)



I have just come back from Brighton after spending a couple of days up there at The Jing Institute of Advanced Massage Training attending the introductory module that marked the commencement of the 2nd part of a BTEC Level 6 professional diploma programme in sports and clinical massage ( http://www.jingmassage.com/Level6BTEC.asp ).  This is a post graduate qualification for already qualified massage therapist (i.e. those who have qualified to at least ITEC Level 3 standard).  The 1st part of the diploma which I completed at the end of last year consisted mainly of practical and hands-on technique modules for common musculoskeletal pain pathologies such as lower back lower, shoulder, neck, headaches (as just a few examples) which spanned a 12 month period, whilst this 2nd part of the programme will span 18 months and look further into orthopaedic assessment tests, injury and rehab exercises.  During the next 18 months I am required to give 200 hours worth of treatments, which equates to about 3 sessions (on 3 different people) every week between now and October 2012 (each treatment would therefore be a 1 hour session for each person each time).  If you are interested, I would love to hear from you, you could come in just for a one off taster, the occasional session as and when your schedule permits or a series of sessions, whatever suits you so long as you give enough notice for me to schedule in advance.  First come, first served!

In addition to the 200 hours of on-going sessions as described above which will only require an initial in-take consultation and then a signature from each recipient for each session received thereafter, I am also required to produce 6 case studies.  Each case study requires me to see the same person over a series of 4 consecutive sessions and so being case studies I’d also be required to conduct an initial consultation as well as a brief de-brief after each session which will go towards the write-up submission for each case study.  The case studies are required to be spread throughout the 18 month duration, so rather than than have all the case studies done all at once right now, I would be looking for just a single person to be a case study to be fitted within roughly 2 – 3 month blocks at a time.  As each case study will be treated 4 times on an on-going weekly basis, it is important to note that if you would like to be a case study that you can commitment to a series of 4 weekly treatment (i.e. for 1 whole month) during a particular time period that can be agreed between us.  Bearing in mind that I will be spreading these 6 case studies out between now and October 2012, if at any time between now and then you yourself or anyone you know that would suitable as a case study please do get in contact.

For both the case studies as well as occasional session recipients the main requirement in common to both is that you have some kind of muscle related or musculoskeletal pain condition that you would be wiling to receive clinical massage sessions for and provide honest feedback on.

I am very happy to answer any questions that you may have or give more detailed information about what’s involved before you commit yourself either by return email, phone or Skype.

Please pass on the information contained herein to anyone you think would be interested, provided that they live within commuting distance of Exeter (UK) of course.

Many thanks and best wishes,
Henry Tang.

Email: info@isca-therapies.co.uk
Tel: 07970 020204
Skype: henryctang
www.isca-therapies.co.uk

1 May, 2011 at 17:45 Leave a comment

Self Treatment of Muscular Pain with Heat or Cold

There are many effective natural self treatments for common ailments which can be readily be found in most households without the need for popping into a local pharmacy.  In fact, there are many of these natural types of remedies which were in common use and remain as effective (if not more so but without side effects or overdosing issues) as any modern commercially available alternative, it’s just that most of us have grown up with the modern equivalent not knowing that there was nothing wrong with the natural alternative from yesteryear – just asking your grandparents should be proof enough of this!

One such natural remedy is the use of moist heat or cold for muscular and soft tissue aches and pains.  There is clear distinction of when heat should be used and when cold should be used, sometimes a alternating or contrast bathing procedure maybe followed, but the important thing to remember is that heat should not be used on any swollen area or an acute injury – an acute injury is one that has occurred within the past 48 hours.

So starting off with the use of heat for chronic muscular pain.  The best type and source of heat for soft tissue related pain is usually moist heat and this can be easily sourced from a hot damp flannel held in the area of pain in order to sooth it.  The heat also encourages increased blood flow into the area which brings in with it new nutrients to replace the pain causing toxic stagnated blood that can build up and get trapped in over tense muscles and soft tissues.  The temperature of the damp flannel should be hot enough to produce a deeply penetrating and soothing effect, but obviously without causing scolding. Ways of achieving this can be as simple as pouring boiling hot water over a flannel in bowl and leaving it to soak for a little bit, or placing a cold damp flannel inside a polythene bag and popping it into the microwave for just a few seconds.  Apply the hot damp flannel in the required places and hold it there still or dab and move it around occasionally as you feel it necessary occasionally for between 5 to 10 minutes.  Do this 3 times a day; morning, noon and night over a week period and see how you go.  If you find that by doing this that the pain decreases over time carry on beyond the week and as often as necessary, but if things don’t get any better at all it would be wise to seek medical attention before the week is up.

Many people are familiar with the use of cold ice packs (or more usually supermarket packs of frozen vegetables such as peas) as first aid in the case of acute injuries of muscles, tendons or ligaments.  So, in the first 48 hours it can be very beneficial to the healing process to apply a source of icy coldness to an injured area in order to alleviate pain.  Ice is also very beneficial for any type of swelling (whether acute or chronic) as the cold encourages the blood vessels to contract and thus squeeze out excess fluid that might be causing swelling.  When using ice cubes as the source of cold during a treatment, keep them moving and circulating around the affected area for between 5 to 7 minutes or until the area turns a rosey pink colour, then leave to rest.  Carry on with this method of ice application as necessary throughout your day in order to reduce pain and swelling.  If an affected area is quite large, the use of water frozen into a paper cup may be more effective, just peel back the sides in order to expose the ice and hold the cup from the base, this keeps the fingers that are holding the cup from getting damp and numb but also enables a longer lasting application of ice to a larger surface area.  Consider having these paper cups of frozen ice ready in your freezer as a standby!

It is also sometimes effective to contrast bath an area, starting off with 5-7 minutes of cold work as described in the paragraph above, followed immediately by 5-7 minutes of moist heat as previously described, then going back to cold for 5-7 minutes once again and then ending with heat again for 5-7 minutes.  This causes a pumping and flushing action to be set-up as the blood vessels are encouraged to contract and squeeze out blood and toxins during the cold phase, whilst the heat phase encourages fresh blood to flow back in and fresh nutrients to be made available to cells and tissues as the blood vessels are encouraged to open back up.  Contrast bathing is ideal for sub-acute pain, this is where the 48 hour or so duration of acute injury has passed by but where some swelling might still exist.  Sometimes, certain injuries lapse into sub-acute from being chronic, once again, contrast bathing as described here is ideal for encouraging beneficial flushing actions of the blood circulation to the troubled area and ultimately this will have a beneficial effect and act as a naturally effective method of pain management.

The appropriate use of heat and cold (as well as contrast bathing) as partially described here are just a small part of a repertoire of highly effective soft tissue pain management and pain resolution techniques that are used as an integrated part of a typical clinical massage session.  Specially sourced volcanic basalt stones are used instead or as an alternative to the hot damp flannels and ice cubes; these stones which once heated or cooled retain a stable temperature for between 20 to 30 minutes which allow these sources of heat or cold to be used for longer and more effectively without needing to re-heat or re-cool allowing for more deeply penetrating effects.

For more information on clinical massage and further self care articles, subscribe to this blog (top left hand side of this page).  If you live in or near Exeter (UK), contact Henry at ISCA Therapies (www.isca-therapies.co.uk) on info@isca-therapies.co.uk for your no obligation consultation or to book your clinical massage appointment series which will effectively put you back in charge of your own pain.

If you have any questions or comments relating to this article, I would warmly welcome your feedback below or via email.  Be well!

22 October, 2010 at 22:39 2 comments

Muscles of the TMJ – Jaw Pain & Headaches

The TMJ or temporomandibular joint is the formal anatomical name given to the jaw joint, where the mandible bone (which forms the lower jaw) meets the skull (at the temporal bone).  There are a number of muscles which attach to and surround this joint and which are involved in mastication (i.e. chewing) as well as other facial movements involving the jaw.  Excessive chronic tension in the muscles connected with and surrounding the TMJ can cause not only local pain perception in the area of the jaw itself, but can also set-up pain referral patterns (through trigger points) causing regular experiences of headaches, migraines, involuntary teeth grinding (bruxism), gum or tooth related pain and even tiniuts (ringing in the ears).  Muscular tension or shortening in the muscle fibres resulting in restricted range of movement of the jaw joint can also cause pain and even a limited opening movement of the mouth itself (e.g. trismus).  Differences in the tensioning of the muscles on opposite sides of the face / jaw can cause uneven bite or malocclusion scenarios.

Physical trauma such as those caused by whiplash or other sudden violent impact to the skull or neck area can set-up chronic “holding” tension which then becomes “locked” into the muscles of the skull, jaw or neck as the body freezes itself up in that split second reaction of self defensive protection.  This tensioned holding scenario in muscles and related soft tissues (in any area of the body) is seen so commonly after many traumatic or sudden impact related situations (including high exertion force tooth extractions as well as many other invasive dental procedures).  What is not always commonly understood is that an effective and permanent unlocking of this tension will still not be permitted by the body itself long (week, months or years) after the perceived danger event has passed until it is satisfactorily notified that the threat has passed, and so in clinical massage therapy it is the goal to gradually introduce this notification of safety to the body to begin the process of gently unlocking itself; the muscles and soft tissues affected will be engaged in this process through safe, gentle, specific and highly focused manipulation and release work.

Apart from the physical conditions described above, unrelenting stress and emotional upset experienced by a person is another way in which muscles of the TMJ can become dysfunctional or become locked into a chronic pain pattern.  In fact, the emotional element is perhaps the most common underlying cause of TMJ dysfunction and pain, simply because there is an actual physical neurological connection between the sensory (as well as the motor) nerves within the TMJ itself which in turn interfaces with the brain and spinal chord via a branch of the Trigeminal nerve.  The feedback loop within this neurological pathway means that emotional stress can cause the muscles of the TMJ to clench or tighten up (quite a lot of people will unconsciously clench or even grind their teeth as a response to coping with or being faced with stress); likewise tightening up or clenching of the muscles in this area causes an increased perceptual registering of emotional stress to be generated in (the primitive reptilian part of) the brain and nervous system. So, as you can see that one feeds back into the other causing a potentially vicious cycle, until something comes along which can interrupt this cycle! Physical exercises which help to stretch and relax the soft tissues of the TMJ are a vital consideration as well as whole body and mind relaxation practices or activities in order to lower emotional stress and decrease sympathetic nervous system tone (and therefore increase the parasympathetic nervous system response).

As well as the perception of stress levels in our daily lives, history of invasive dental work and the related impact of other physical or emotional trauma, the type of food which makes up our diet can also have an effect.  The more prolonged and harder we have to chew our food, the higher the chances of the TMJ muscles becoming chronically tense.  Of course, as with any other set of muscles in the body, there are many effective preventative self care exercises and things that one can do in order to look after our TMJs and ease pain, preferable before it becomes chronic.

This video shows examples of just some of the self care exercises you can do in order to reduce tension in the muscles of the TMJ:

Chronic TMJ dysfunction and pain can respond very favourably to specific and effective physical therapy approaches such as clinical massage which mixes and combines elements from trigger point therapy, neuromusclar massage, myofascial release, stretching, acupressure massage, craniosacral therapy, as well as sometimes work with hydrotherapy to bring in soothing sources of moist heat and cold as appropriate all into the same session to suit the needs of the individual client.  Here is a very informative  article from a massage therapy trade journal written by a dental nurse who subsequently devised a unique clinical massage protocol for alleviating TMJ (as well as other jaw, teeth and headache) related pain conditions after training in clinical massage techniques herself and pooling this together with her dental nurse training:

TMJ & Clinical Massage Article (Today’s Therapist Magazine Dec/Jan 2009) – PDF File

Here is a very highly recommended website with lots of visual charts depicting the pain referral patterns that can be experienced and get set-up due to trigger point activity in muscles of the head and neck – have a look to see if the charts below match up with any pain patterns you might be experiencing:

www.triggerpoints.net/head-and-neck-pain.htm

A list of some the important muscles involved in jaw pain and movement restriction issues:

Masetter
Lateral Pterygoid
Medial Pterygoid
Temporalis
Digastric (plus others in the “suprahyoid” group)

These muscles are commonly indicated for frequently reoccurring headaches with pain radiating patterns which can be mapped out predictably by the person experiencing them:

Suboccipitals
Upper Trapezius
Sternocleidomastoid

Another informative site with TMJ related information and along with a helpful beginner’s musculoskeletal tutorial summarizing which muscles are involved in performing what physical movements of the jaw have a look at http://abbottcenter.com/bostonpaintherapy/2009/10/01/jaw-pain-and-tmj-final-details/

If you are interested in wading even more into some technical depth, this particular article is somewhat heavy on technical anatomical description and details, but well worth reading if you have the relevant background and want to investigate how and why clinical massage (and myofascial release work in particular) can help address TMJ related chronic pain issues:

TMJ & MFR Article (Today’s Therapist Magazine – Jul/Aug 2008) – PDF File

This entire article was prompted by some recent sessions I’d performed with a client to help them out with TMJ related pain including subconscious teeth grinding at night, regular headaches around the perimeter of the ears and down the side of the neck, malaligned bite and a very limited ability to open the mouth – so limited that opening the mouth to take a bit from a sandwich was virtually impossible such was the pain as well as just the physical restriction in range of movement of the jaw before we got to work.  Conventional MRI scans had not been able to shed any light on what was going for this client, yet we managed to produce a significant shift in jaw movement with decrease in pain from session 1 as well as reduction in teeth grinding at night, all to a degree which had not been experienced with conventional other treatments elsewhere.  Improvements continued in session 2 and session 3 will be next week (at the time of writing this article). Will aim to update with progress on this blog as we progress.  The protocols and techniques I use aim to produce effective and permanent shifts on a 4 to 6 session basis when performed on a weekly session basis – provided that the client also diligently follows the additional selfcare advice at home as well as attending the weekly regular sessions.

It has been reported by one particular source that 90% of musculoskeletal issues have an element of TMJ involvement to it, yet TMJ dysfunction isn’t necessarily the root cause (no pun intended).   “As a above, so below” provides us with a useful perspective from which we could spring board off of in order to begin looking at the picture of the body in an alternative and more holistic relationship, so according the Lovett Brothers Principle each vertebrae bone in the spine has is intimately related to a matching counterpart at the opposite end, thus the bones of the jaw, skull and neck have counterparts which they are affected by (and visa-versa) in the lumbar (lower back) and sacral areas of the pelvis.

TMD or TMJD (temporomandibular joint dysfunction) as it is sometimes referred to as is certainly a very big topic, I hope I’ve managed to cover as many of the salient issues  as possible here, but there is still so much more that I could say that hasn’t been raised in this particular article, so I would very much welcome your feedback, comments, questions and suggestions for amendments, additions and further articles on this topic.

Henry Tang (Clinical Massage Therapist) – Spaces of Possibilities Wellness Centre (Crows Nest, Sydney, Australia)

Visit the Space of Possibilities Web Page at: www.facebook.com/SOPcentre

Please leave comments below or email me at: SOPcentre@gmail.com

8 October, 2010 at 03:03 2 comments

What’s the difference between an osteopath, chiropractor, physiotherapist and what you do?

Is question I get asked a lot and it is a reasonable question as we can appear to be quite similar in that we all work hands-on the body doing manual therapy techniques to help people with musculoskeletal complaints including chronic pain, repetitive strain, movement difficulties, an old injury, nerve entrapment, and postural alignment issues to name but a few. The answer lies in the basic philosophical approach that each discipline takes in dealing with a particular issue, which then ultimately determines the techniques which will be used.

The definitions looked at here will mainly apply to UK trained practitioners, but more international and generic supplemental information can be found in the links to various related Wikipedia entries at the end of this particular article. Additionally, one should bear in mind that many practitioners once they’ve gained their basic qualification often go on to do any number of post graduate courses and in fact it is not uncommon for osteopaths, chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, nurses, movement instructors (such pilates) and many other professionals licensed to do hands on manual therapies to be all attending the same courses – as I myself have done numerous times – this has not only enabled me to learn some profoundly effective hands-on therapy skills which build upon my existing knowledge but also gaining a deeper appreciation of what the other practitioners do in their respective modalities. Ultimately, the aim of course at the end of the day is to be able to serve our clients better and more effectively, no mater what therapy we’re practicing.

Physiotherapy

Traditionally, physiotherapy (also known as PT or Physical Therapy in other countries) uses a mixture of hands-on palpation and various client lifestyle assessment strategies to determine an appropriate course of treatment. The treatments strategies can include massage, but most usually will be an appropriate rehabilitation regime designed to strengthen the pertinent areas of the body involved in the patient’s presenting condition. This would probably be a fair basic definition of the type of service that a physiotherapist in private practice might be offering their clients. Unfortunately, I can already hear the voices of those people who have had very disappointingly different experiences of physiotherapy from practitioners operating from within the public National Health Service (NHS), and yes from numerous anecdotal stories I’ve heard assessment is done entirely hands off (due to time constraints of 20 minute appointments for assessment and treatment) and the solution is almost always focused exclusively on getting the client onto a routine of strengthening exercises. This exclusive focusing on strengthening (of muscles) can lead to imbalance problems where already over tight opposing muscles to the damaged area are not being identified as needing to be released first and so are getting even more tense when the imbalance is magnified as the weakened area becomes stronger through the rehab process. Also in the last 10-15 years, hands-on skills in massage work within a typical physiotherapist’s degree training program has been greatly reduced to the point now where even an massage therapist with just the most basic level (ITEC or equivalent) of qualification in the UK will have done more hours of practical training in massage than a more recently qualified physiotherapist. This is in a quite way ironic, as therapeutic and remedial massage for clinical benefit was actually what physiotherapy entirely about at one point in history, nowadays the massage element has been replaced by ultra sound devices and other technological devices. My advice would be to search out a good private physio who has additional training or expertise in the type of issue you are seeking help with, if you have only ever experienced physio on the NHS. I’ve personally learnt some great soft tissue manipulation techniques for the spine which was taught by a practitioner who is both a musculoskeletal physiotherapist, a remedial massage therapist as well as a yoga teacher, all elements feeding into the course she taught including yoga exercises which were indicated as useful rehab exercise for spine issues.

Chiropractic

Most people associate chiropractors as being people who adjust, manipulate and crack the bones of the spine in order to re-align it. Chiropractors adjust the spine not only to benefit the physical posture of a person, but also because they view the spine as being the organizing focal point of health because all the nerves supplying control and feedback pathways from the brain out to the major organs and peripheral limbs of the body emanate from the spine. Therefore, any entrapment of nerves due to pressure from misaligned vertebral bones of the spine could also affect the person’s health due to misfiring nerve signals (or be contributing to musculoskeletal issue). Chiropractors in the UK in common the UK trained osteopaths go through a 5 year training program which covers the exact same level of anatomy, physiology and pathology training that a GP (General Practitioner) would receive, except that there is considerably less training in pharmacology (training in the use of pharmaceutical drugs) and instead this is replaced with the techniques and philosophies pertaining to that particular modality’s way of treatment. Chiropractors (as with osteopaths) are also trained to give nutrition as well as other life style advice, although for some reason this is not an area I’ve heard people mention when they go for a chiropractic visit, it’s always about the adjustment! For those that have been to a chiropractor already or have yet to go, but either way are put off by all the forced crunching and clicking I would urge you to think again and look up the McTimoney Chiropractic approach. McTimoney chiropractors are so different in their approach to performing adjustments as to be almost polar opposite when compared to traditional chiropractors, McTimoney practitioners still make adjustments to the spine but do so in a much more subtle, gentle, less force but still effective manner. I’ve actually been an on-looker observing a McTimoney trained chiropractor at work, and it is indeed hard to believe some of the moves which passed for adjustment procedures were so subtle and gentle could be having the kind of effect they were supposed to be having, but the proof was indeed in the pudding for the person who was on the table at the time!

Osteopathy

In common with chiropractors, osteopaths are best known for the adjustments that they make between joints using what are known as high velocity thrust (HVT) techniques, what are usually referred to as the adjustment or cracking and clicking. A generalization to differentiate chiropractic from osteopathy, is that whilst chiropractors concentrate on the spine, osteopaths concentrate on all bony joints and junctions in order to align the physical structure of a person for optimal health. This alignment strategy, as with chiropractic looks at not only the bones but the nerves and fluids flowing between the bony junctions. Osteopathy itself when you look into the various schools can be quite wide ranging and eclectic once you get passed the core principles. There is a branch of osteopathy which deals with the subtle movement and manipulation of the individual bones of the skull known as cranial osteopathy. A further development of cranial osteopathy is cranial sacral therapy which take the underlying soft tissues and fascia (connective tissue) of the brain and spinal chord as well as the fluid (CSF – Cerebral Spinal Fluid) surrounding these structure to be a kind of respiratory system in its own right which can be worked on and so affecting health in the wider body. Yet another popular branch of osteopathy is visceral osteopathy (also sometimes known as visceral manipulation or visceral release therapy), where organs of the abdominal cavity can be gently coaxed and released into a more optimal suspensory state within its own (but not totally isolated) web of connective tissue, this in turn can have significant impact on musculoskeletal issues which can then be traced back via certain predictable physical interconnection routes. Visceral manipulation in common with craniosacral therapy both work with the fascia system of the body and are both modalities that I have trained in as they involve working with the fascia (connective tissue of the body), which is in turn soft tissue related work and so finally leads me nicely on to what I do…

Soft Tissue Therapy

Soft tissue therapy is not one thing but a eclectic collection of tools, but in common all these tools are hands-on techniques that are designed to work with, affect or manipulate the muscles, fascia and other soft tissues of the body. The soft tissue therapist’s approach is to work with the soft tissues of the body in whatever way is appropriate, this could be light massage to encourage circulation, precision deep tissue massage, soft tissue manipulation, fascia release work, trigger point work, facilitated stretching, etc. The approach then is to release tension in the soft tissues which in return could cause a release of a stuck junction between bone joints if appropriate. The approach that a chiropractor or osteopath often uses is to manipulate the bone or joint itself directly and have the soft tissue follow along (hopefully correctly) afterwards. Emotional or physical trauma as well as unremitting stress is often imprinted in the cellular memory of soft tissue structures experiencing dysfunction and unease, soft tissue therapy due to its non aggressive approach encourages not only a physical release or unwinding of ravelled tension to happen under the guidance of your body’s innate intelligence system (the same intelligence that causes a cut or wound to heal), but also can spontaneously cause the previously locked in emotions or trauma to safely release, this is also often a missing link in the recovery process that wouldn’t otherwise be addressed by other means. As there is more soft tissue in the body than bony tissue, it is often the case the probably as much as 85% or more of issues can be resolved more effectively using a soft tissue approach as a first port of call, and then further follow up with physiotherapy (for strengthening work), osteopathic or chiropractic work if necessary for bony manipulation work or more intractable issues.

Useful links and resources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osteopathy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiropractic
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physiotherapy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_tissue_therapy

Soft Tissue Therapy Practitioner in Exeter (Devon), UK –
http://www.isca-therapies.co.uk

3 April, 2010 at 10:56 8 comments

West Country Massage Association Meeting


Today I attended the first biannual meeting of the year of the West Country Massage Association (here after which will referred to as the WMA).  The WMA is made of members who have trained   and qualified in massage or another recognized bodywork therapy qualification.  Most members of the WMA are alumni of The School of Complementary Health based here in Exeter, but membership applications are welcomed from people who have trained with any recognized provider of alternative and complementary health training whether within the west country region of the UK or not.  The catchment area for attendees at a typical meeting is usually made of folks mainly coming from south and mid Devon, but there are or have been members at meetings who have travelled from Cornwall or Somerset.  The format of a typical meeting consists of 2 guests speakers  along with a break for tea and cake in-between the first and second speakers, finally there is an any other business opportunity slot right at the very end plus lots of opportunity to socialize and network during the breaks as well as before the start and at the very end of the meetings.


The guest speakers are usually practitioners of an alternative or complementary health therapy modality who give us a theoretical as well usually a practical overview of what they do.  Alternatively, the guest speaker could also be talking about some other subject which practitioners might be interested in such as practice management, marketing, new approaches, etc.




Today’s first speaker was an acupuncturist who had initially trained as a registered nurse before deciding to undergo a 3 year degree program in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) based acupuncture at Westminster University in London.  She continues to practice nursing alongside supplementing acupuncture in for some of her patients which has resulted in a number of successful clinical results.  We had the basic concepts of acupuncture introduced to us: the background of Chinese medicine, ying / yang balance, meridians, excess / deficiency, tongue analysis, pulse taking, needling, as well as various other approaches of point stimulation including moxibustion and cupping.  Most of this introductory theory I was familiar with from my Shiatsu training.  An interesting side note which I took away from this presentation which will mean something to those who understand this, but if not don’t worry just let it pass on by, TCM and 5 element are 2 distinct schools and approaches to acupuncture – I always thought that 5 element was a subset of TCM?  I have yet to try out a moxibustion or cupping treatment myself, but sounds very pleasant and goes on my growing list of bodywork treatments to experience in the future.


After the intermission for tea and cake, the second speaker were a husband and wife team who run a local complementary health practice and between them have experience in Ayurvedic medicine, Ayurvedic nutrition, yoga and sports massage.  Nutrition was the main focus of this particular presentation, and whilst I decided long ago that this wasn’t an area I’d be particularly interested in specializing in, I have casually studied the various popular approaches as an occasional tasks running in the background.  Perhaps not to my surprise, I found huge contradictions between the various well respected authors on “what to eat” or “what is a healthy diet” which has only served to reinforce my own personal opinion that diet and nutrition falls much lower down the hierarchy of health addressable areas in a person than some advocates might otherwise suggest.  Having said that the type of approach to nutrition and food intake as advocated by our second set of speakers I found to be very much in agreement with my personally beliefs.  I’m not so much a fan of subscribing to a diet, where everyone can eat this, can’t eat that or worst of all deny themselves of a particular food that they’ll end up craving for an extended period of time.  So called dieting and the approach of denying our bodies something usually ends in failure as craving builds up to a head and we eventually crash in some way.


The Ayurvedic approach to nutrition is a constitution centred approach to food in take.  A constitution based approach says that it’s what we are actually absorbing through digestion from the foods which has a much bigger overall effect on our health than the isolated food items themselves that we are consuming, or put another way if we aren’t properly absorbing or digesting efficiently what we’re eating then no “healthy diet plan” that hasn’t been tailored to our own very individual constitution, metabolism and digestion needs is ever going to make a difference.  As much as we are individuals with varying personalities and personal preferences, so this recognition of diversity is equally applicable to our constitution and digestive systems.  To determine what type of constitution you have requires no more than a single visit to suitably qualified nutrition therapist who works in this way, in this case we happen to be talking about an Ayurvedic nutrition practitioner.  The practitioner will having discovered their client’s basic constitution type will then go on to educate the client in what effects certain foods have on that person’s constitution and digestive system.  Armed with this information that client is then able to make self informed choices and self monitor the feedback from their own bodies that their own food choices have.  This awareness may take some time for the client to become accustomed to tuning into, but ultimately it is designed to be self empowering and allows the client to experience what works for them as an invidual having been armed with the basic knowledge of their particular constitution and considerations thereof.  This type of system does not prescribe what exactly to eat (or not to eat) in terms of a diet traditional plan.  This approach allows also for the occasional mistake or over indulgence to be made, it’s OK, there is no need to constantly beat oneself up with stick over it, and to realize that we can give even more empowerment to ourselves by realizing that we can be responsible for rewarding ourselves for when we get things right.  The nutrition therapist’s role in this type of system is to merely coach and facilitate awareness rather than to prescribe.  This is very much the approach I prefer to take with my own clients too in regards to the bodywork therapies that I do i.e. to introduce the awareness of a new possibility and then for them to self manage from there and with further coaching to stay connected to that awareness as well as doing further self discovery themselves if necessary.
What we are thinking about when we’re eating it was proposed also plays a more significant role in our digestion and (mal-)absorption than what it is that we’re eating, another factor I’m very much in agreement with, so for example do you have thoughts of pleasure or guilt in your mind as you eat something?  What can of stress or environmental conditions do you eat under?




To end with, we were introduced to a little bit of standing, but mainly some sitting yoga moves which helped us check in with our bodies and that to self assess our postures were evenly balanced and aligned.  Some interesting exercises which I will see if I can find some examples of on youtube which will save me type a thousand or so words here!


Our 2nd set of guest speakers also talked about a new service that they had just set-up in their Totnes based clinic to offer alternative / complementary therapies to sufferers of chronic conditions such as MS who were on low incomes but who needed at least weekly if not twice weekly therapy sessions for things to be anywhere near effective.   In these cases, a contribution would be acceptable according to the amount the client could afford to pay toward each session.


All in all, a very informative half day and was great to share and network with some other like minds too.

8 March, 2010 at 03:50 2 comments

Soft tissue pain: are you in the 40% group?

A study into the prevalence of significant physical aches, pain and discomfort among the general population showed that…

60% are relatively “pain free” on a day to day basis;
30% experience some kind of accute or regional / local pain;
10% suffer with some degree of widespread distributed pain everyday.

Therefore 40% of the general population experiences some kind of on-going physical pain on-going in their bodies.

Within that 40% group, between 70% – 80% of pain has been found to be soft tissue related in nature.  Soft tissue includes the muscles, tendons, ligaments and all pervading connective tissues (known as the “fascia”) of the body.

Massage therapists who have had specalist (usually extended) training in remedial massage and soft tissue manipuation techniques are particuarly well placed to provide effective assistance in the addressing or easing of soft tissue pain.  Suitably qualified therapists will usually advertise their skills by using any one of the following modality descriptions in order to differentiate themselves from those who are just offering non-remedial general relaxation massage or spa type treatments: remedial massage, remedial bodywork, sports massage, soft tissue manipulation, soft tissue therapy, myofascial release, fascial bodywork, structural bodywork, structural integration, Rolfing, neuromuscular therapy, neuromuscular technique, neuromusuclar massage, deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy, medical massage and clinical massage.  Also related are the modalities of visceral manipulation, craniosacral therapy and physical therapy.

This type of therapy involes various types of postural, visual and functional assessment procedures which help the therapist identify the issue.  The work is often concentrated on a particular area with precision focus for an extended amount of time involving interactive feedback with the client, whilst other areas of the body which may seem unrelated to the presenting issue can also be worked on in the same session or in future sessions.  Finally the client is given useful exercises to do in-between visits in order to maintain, supplement and enhance the effectiveness of the work done durinig each session.

The video below is aimed at therapists but still will be very much of interest to a lay person such as maybe yourself who may be looking for a proven alternative or complementary approach to relieving their soft tissue related pain, it expalins the physiological mechanism of pain and how remedial massage modalities can help:

Over the next few days, I’ll be publishing a series of articles defining some of the soft tissue modalities and techniques (mentioned above) that I use in my own clinical massage clinic here in Exeter (UK) and how in practical terms they have worked successfully on real world clients.

12 February, 2010 at 00:30 Leave a comment


Henry Tang – Therapeutic & Advanced Clinical Massage Practitioner (Crows Nest, Sydney, Australia)

Click image above to visit Spaces of Possibilities Wellness Centre, Crows Nest, Sydney, Australia.

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