BLOG, INFORMATION AND RESOURCES
Resources, discussions and information produced by Charlotte Lattin - Level 5 Sports, Remedial and Holistic Massage and Soft Tissue Therapist, Movement Coach, Psychologist, Runner, Swimmer, Yoga practitioner, Lover of Outdoors, Mum to 4 children, Owner of a crazy dog (and a couple of other dogs) and fascinated by all things to do with how our bodies and minds work...
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might guess from the image that this post is about Arnica and its role in helping recovery from muscular aches and pains (and, as you will see this amazing ingredient can help with lots of things). It is also about the little things you can do to take an active role in staying fit and avoiding pain...mainly this is about doing those stretches but if you get into a routine you will be amazed how empowering it is to be able to take an active role in keeping your body in tip-top condition, whether a keen athlete or just fighting through the holiday shopping!
So what is Arnica and why all the fuss? Arnica montana is one of the best-known homeopathic remedies. It has been used for several trials to demonstrate the effect of homeopathic remedies on bruising and trauma. Indeed some plastic surgeons swear by it for reducing bruising after cosmetic surgery. The flowers contain selenium and manganese, both of these are powerful anti-oxidants in the human body and in addition manganese is an essential element needed for healthy bones, wound-healing, and the metabolism of proteins, cholesterol and carbohydrates. It may well be that it is this rich source of manganese that facilitates healing, acting in combination with the other plant chemicals.
For centuries arnica montana has been used herbally for bruising and sprains. The root contains essential oils which are powerful anti–inflammatory agents. The ski resorts are well-versed in the benefits of arnica – massages and body wraps using arnica are readily available in many and massage therapists (like me) know how great this can be for use with anyone with sore, aching muscles - hence my use of the Weleda Arnica Oil and Massage Balm in my work.
Arnica montana is used as a trauma remedy, a remedy for bruising injuries, but its actions are more widespread than that. Although Arnica is most commonly used as an acute emergency remedy, it can just as easily be used to remedy some internal problems as well - think of it almost as a remedy of the bruised soul - there you get the double benefit of healing the body and helping to heal perhaps the pride issues of injury and nurturing you a little (Weleda Arnica Muscle Soak in the bath certainly works on both for me!). When you couple the effects on the body and mind with massage you really get the full benefits of this as the relaxing and anti-inflammatory effects are enhanced by massage. You can very easily use the massage oil or balm on yourself between massage treatments - recent clients have been amazed at the impact of adding this to their treatment plans.
Another important factor is the impact of Arnica on those who use vigorous exercise to defuse anger and aggression, I know of several people who 'run (or swim or whatever) to 'burn off the crazy'! In some cases the physical pain has an almost cleansing effect on their mood. Do you have a tendency to “prove” yourself by going further, working harder, indulging in dangerous sports and going beyond the limits of endurance without complaint? Do you take pride in your strength - it may be worth taking some down time using Arnica products to help to heal and soothe that spirit!
What else can you do to help the body (and maybe soul if we're sticking with the slightly hippy vibe - bearing in mind that most of my Arnica loving clients are not the 'hippy' type!)? Yep, you guessed it DO THOSE STRETCHES!!
Most people do their stretches (a couple of times) when they are in pain. What you might be interested to consider is that doing these as part of your morning or evening routine can make a huge impact on your control over injury/stiffness but also on a less injured and more mobile body.
A good test of physical movement and health is whether you can sit down and stand up (on the floor I might add) without using your arms - give it a go, you may be surprised how tricky this is!
The girl in the first video makes it look easy. If you find it more difficult have a look at the next video and you can 'score' your attempt. It might spur you on to get working on your body (and soul) especially with Christmas and the New Year looming large! There are some great resources for simple exercises and advice about starting a routine just for you, a good start could be reading the 'Yoga as Medicine' book that I have recommended to clients, as well as getting some Arnica products (available from me or from my webshop - a link is on my website). You can even give some to a friend or family member!
Get in touch with me to book in a massage and get those prescription stretches started - I can also take bookings for friends or family as a gift so do ask for more information.
Simple ways to help be the best you can be - a 5-10 minute yoga/strength and stretching routine and using quality Arnica products can be of such benefit - give it a try!
This week I have been in need of a massage...a bit like shoemakers children going without shoes, massage therapists are often pretty rubbish at getting massage themselves - despite knowing the benefits of it! I have managed to book myself a well-deserved treatment this week (and feel so much better for it) and have realised how important this is to schedule in regularly. Of course I use my muscles regularly as part of my work...but you probably do too, whatever your work or leisure pursuits. I know that I was shocked to notice how great it was to have my arms and feet massaged - areas that we so often take for granted.
With this in mind here are some benefits of massage that you might have let slip in your mind (I know...we often ignore our bodies until they start screaming for attention or your back 'goes' for example). Have a think about you reasons for massage and why you keep putting off that time to help keep you going BEFORE you hit the 'broken' stage!
Massage can be used as effective treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations and it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and tension.
Studies have found massage may also be helpful for:
Insomnia related to stress
Myofascial pain syndrome
Soft tissue strains or injuries
Temporomandibular joint pain
Beyond the benefits for specific conditions or diseases, some people (I would say most!!) enjoy massage because it often produces feelings of caring, comfort and connection. It even gives you a bit of time out just to breathe!
So, I'm keen to know - what's your reason for getting massage?
Do you only book in when you have an injury, or do you value the relaxation, maybe it's both or perhaps something different? Let me know!
This weekend I have been training in the application and use of Kinesiology Taping - this is a great addition to a massage therapists options as it can help so much with muscular issues and postural problems. Not to mention that it looks very cool - .
So this taping method is what you may well have seen on many athletes in the Olympics (looks good, right?) but it's also useful for those who are not quite as sporty. It differs from conventional sports taping as it allows movement and has more applications in terms of remedial corrections.
Kinesiology taping method was developed in 1979 in Japan by a chiropractor unhappy with the restricted mobility caused by conventional sports taping.
He wanted something for his clients to use between appointment sessions to increase efficacy of manual therapy for lasting results that did not restrict movement but aided recovery and posture.
So what is it and what conditions does it cover? Kinesiology Tape is cotton and a small amount of nylon - it's latex free and suitable for even fragile skin (unlike conventional sports tape). It has a wave-like pattern, allowing the skin under the tape to breathe. The tape itself only stretches on the longitudinal axis. If properly applied, kinesiology taping can be used for virtually anything from chronic pain, muscular hypertrophy, postural problems and even menstrual pain.
Kinesiology tape can be a huge asset for athletes. The tape can be applied prior to events, in the middle of workouts or events in the case of sudden injury or as a post-workout or massage remedial tool. The tape is extremely strong and can be applied with different tension strengths according to the type of action required.
Many therapists will use different tension strengths and techniques to allow the muscles and ligaments to have support or inhibition when injury occurs.
The tape essentially stabilizes an area, for example the shoulder, to prevent any further damage.
The great thing about the Kinesiology tape is that it still allows for range of motion, just not so much that you are likely to injure yourself further.
Another important aspect of Kinesio tape for athletes is rehabilitation. Many times athletes experience that after a competitive event their body is exhausted or broken, or it may be that a non-competitive athlete has overtrained, but in either case rehab is needed. Manual manipulation is important to rehabilitation. Using Kinesiology tape after a manual manipulation session can increase efficacy of your treatment.
The tape can help open up fascial tissue to make manual manipulation easier. It helps athletes after manual manipulation in that it gives a continuous amount of stabilization to the affected area and gives muscles and ligaments a chance to rebuild and restore by taking the pressure off of those areas that have been worked on manually.
The Kinesiology taping method also helps with alignment. If you have a tendency to slouch or have an area of the body that is not properly aligned the tape can bring the body back into alignment and help the athlete sense how this feels in the body. Having correct alignment can decrease pain and help the joints recover from activities.
Kinesiology tape also decreases pain in certain areas of the body that may be bothersome. Most athletes tend to have lower back pain. After manual manipulation, the tape can be placed on the affected area (using a different method or style of taping depending on the area) to decrease pain and discomfort. If there is bruising or swelling, there is a taping method that helps drain fluids into the lymphatic ducts to decrease swelling and help rid the body of bruising.
Most athletes tend to know if they have rolling ankles or patellar tracking issues, just to name a few ailments that I routinely hear in my office. Kinesiology tape can be put on the affected area to prevent injuries if the athlete plans to do an event. Using tape before an event can save the athlete from future surgeries or ailments after the event itself.
With Kinesio tape it is important to know that you should always go to someone who has been trained to tape and has a background in kinesiology, anatomy, and physiology. Kinesiology tape may look simple, but there are several different combination tapes and tension strengths that a person who has been trained will know how to do and do it effectively.
Taping yourself is not an easy task, and even YouTube videos are not effective at teaching the methodology behind Kinesio taping. It is worth going to someone who can effectively tape you, and the longevity of the tape can be up to five days if you go to someone who has been trained in the kinesiology taping method.
Your body is important to your athletic career so take care of it!
Are you always pushing yourself too hard? In life? Work? Training? Do you make time for yourself to just be and to get enough rest? If not, you should - there is only so much your body and mind will take and it can be great for the soul to take a bit more time and appreciate things rather than rush on past.
Over the last few blog posts (and yes, sorry its been a while) I have alluded to some health issues that have made me re-evaluate things and forced me to take a break from working too much, chasing after the kids AND trying to get lots of training in. Basically my body has said 'that's enough' and I have been taking some time to rest and slowing down.
If you're like me then this sounds frustrating BUT actually it has been very useful (so far) and has helped me to learn to listen more to my body and to take time to appreciate the small things.
Rather than running, pool swimming and doing HIIT training I have changed my regular practice to include gentle yoga, river swimming and dog walking and, do you know what? It hasn't made much difference to my physical appearance but slowing down and re-evaluating has made me appreciate what I have got - lovely family and friends, an amazing dog and my health could be considerably worse.
SO what could be useful to you guys in terms of my experience? How can you learn to listen to your body? It's not that hard but it can take practise!
1) Take time to breathe - sounds simple right? It's not. Before you get up take a few minutes to breathe properly and decide what is important to achieve (realistically) for the day and things to be grateful for.
2) Check how much rest you are managing. If you're an exercise junkie you do need to make sure you have enough rest and recovery time.
3) Find a way of getting some downtime for you - massage, music, reading - whatever works for you.
4) Cut down on screen time - if you have time for facebook you could take some time for you!
5) Get enough sleep - do you get 8 hours? Going long term without sleep can have an impact on your health no matter how 'healthy' you are the rest of the time.
6) Eat properly - if you're rushing around it's all too easy to grab something quick and easy but proper food (ideally organic) is easy to make fast and is much better for your body. Preparing earlier in the week is a great way to achieve fast healthy food at work, in the gym or at home. Failing that, most meals don't take more than 20-30 minutes to cook. Getting the right nutrition is important for your body whether you are exercising regularly or not.
7) Practice mindfulness...I do this in the river and try to stay present much of the day (when I remember) but you can give this a go anywhere. Check out my guest blogger Nina Watson's post below.
If you would like to book a massage or try out the Weleda products that Nina talks about do get in touch. As an extra note about mindfulness maybe you would like to treat yourself or a friend to the Weleda Mindfulness Colouring Book this Christmas - it is lovely and a bargain at only £3.95.
GUEST BLOGGER NOVEMBER: Dr Nina Watson
Dr Nina Watson is a clinical psychologist; massage therapist, mindfulness meditation teacher and Weleda Wellbeing Advisor. She discovered mindfulness meditation was very helpful working with staff and patients in the NHS cancer services and very useful personally. She has practiced a lot, especially during the early hours when waking through the night with small children!
Just being, in the shower: Mindfulness meditation practice in everyday life
How can we slow down, just for a few moments and make wise choices about looking after ourselves? How do we top up our reserves? Practising mindfulness meditation can help when demands are high and our reserves are low. The essence of mindfulness is a compassionate acceptance of things being as they are at this very moment. This is not easy. Things may not be as we want them to be and it can be quite scary to feel the emotions and physical sensations that are there when we slow down. This is why many of us keep going, driven to keep occupied and avoid turning towards painful thoughts, feelings and physical discomfort under the surface. The trouble is, this can lead to exhaustion.
Mindfulness meditation encourages us to pause throughout the day. This allows us to understand more about what is going on for us and decide how to look after our own needs, along with the needs of others. So, how do we weave mindful practices into our every day life?
Being in the shower mindfulness meditationHaving a shower can be a great mindful activity to choose, as this may offer you a bit of uninterrupted privacy in a busy household. Say to yourself: “Just for these few minutes there is nowhere for me to go, nothing else I need to do. This is exactly where I need to be right now. Whatever thoughts arise about things I need to sort out, I can come back to them later, just not right now. Right now I will pay attention to the experience of being in the shower for the next few minutes”. All that is required is to pay attention to the experience of being in the shower as it unfolds. The aim is not to feel any different – just create the space to accept and allow yourself to be exactly as you are, with gentleness, kindness and compassion.
Notice the movement of your body as you turn on the shower. Feel the temperature of the water, the decision when it is just right to step in. You may already have a cascade of thoughts about wanting a different, more powerful shower, or appreciating the flow of clean water. Whatever your thoughts, notice them, acknowledge them and, without judging yourself, bring your attention back to the feel of the water. Use all of your senses, looking at the pattern the water makes, hearing the sound of the water and feeling the sensation of the water falling on your skin. Notice the smell and consistency of the products you use. Maybe you are drawn to a particular body wash – notice the smell, the feel of it in your hand.
Notice where you start your washing routine? Tune into the physical sensations within your body as you wash. How does your skin feel? Soft, rough, smooth? Can you feel the muscles beneath the skin? You may choose to massage the skin as you wash. What do you notice? Just check in with each area and gently turn towards each experience with curiosity. Turning your full attention to being present, in this moment.
Whenever thoughts arise and your mind wanders, be gentle and kind with yourself. This is what minds do. Notice the thoughts and, without following where they were taking you, gently bring your attention back to being in the shower, the water and where you were in your washing routine. You may need to do this again and again. This is the practice. Acknowledge important thoughts, or calls to action, saying: “I will come back to you later, just not right now”. Then draw your mind back to being in the shower. You may find you are impatient, or wonder why you are doing this exercise, or feel frustrated that your mind is so busy. What ever your experience, just reassure yourself that this is natural and there is no need to be good at this, or for you to feel a certain way. Just doing the practice for these few minutes is enough.
Notice if you have any judgements about yourself, liking, disliking or criticising. As best as you can, acknowledge all of these and let them be there, without following the train of thought. Hold them gently, with kindness and compassion. Each time bring the focus of your attention back to where you are, back to each movement, each physical sensation, back to just ‘being’ in the shower. Come back to the feeling in your body right now at this moment. Maybe there is an ache, stiffness, or pain somewhere. Gently turn towards and acknowledge it with compassion. Check that your posture is not adding to the discomfort, softening your knees, letting your shoulders relax, lifting up through the spine, releasing tension in your jaw. Feel the heat of the water and all of the sensations along with the pain that is there. If you wish, your focus can move to the sensations of your breath flowing into and out of your body. Notice the rise and fall of each breath, without changing it, let the breath breathe itself. Notice where in your body you feel the breath? If your mind wanders, congratulate yourself on noticing and just bring your attention back to the next breath, this breath, as though it was the first time you have explored the sensation of breath flowing in and out of your body. Letting the attention on the breath dissolve, your focus can widen to the whole of your body, or narrow to the part of the body you were washing, paying close attention to the sensations there.
Let yourself notice the feeling of your scalp moving as you shampoo your hair. As you move to rinsing your hair, notice each movement, your posture. Be mindful of each transition in your routine, and of how you are taking care of yourself. When you wash your face, you may want to let your fingers circle gently over your skin, fast or slow, or perhaps pressing gently on points in your face – at the temples, between your eyebrows, in the centre of your forehead, above your eyebrows, press gently and then release the pressure. Press at either side of the bridge of the nose, down and out to the cheeks, at the bottom of the cheekbones, at the back of the head – wherever feels right as you tune into the pressure and the sensations.
As you reach the end of the shower meditation, take a moment to extend gratitude towards yourself for giving yourself this time and attention. As you dry and move into the rest of your day, set your intention to be fully present in whatever you do next.
Listening to your body and choosing products that meet your needs at that time can add to the sensory, nurturing experience. Whether you ease your mind and body with relaxing lavender, or revitalise yourself with Sicilian lemons, warm aches and pains with arnica, or detoxify with birch – make time for yourself and step out of ‘doing’ into ‘being’ for a few minutes each day.