Rachel Richards

licensed massage therapist

east village, nyc

News: October 2011

Did you remember to sit up straight?

Patterns are hard to change, even when they're causing us pain or discomfort. In order to break potentially harmful habits like slumping over a desk, leaning into one hip, or wearing your shoulders as earrings, you need to form new memory patterns in your central nervous system. When we learn something, our brains form new neural pathways. In other words, our nervous system actually has the ability to be changed or molded. This is called neural plasticity and allows us to record our experiences, whether cognitive, physical or emotional.

When a memory is first created, the memory pattern is purely functional. This means it isn't stable enough to leave a lasting impression, so it gets stored in our short-term memory. With repetition, however, repeated firing of neurons causes the functional pattern to become structural, thereby consolidating the memory and changing it to long-term.

As a massage therapist, I am always dealing with the concept of neural plasticity. Most of the people I work with have unhealthy patterns that have been etched into their nervous systems, making change difficult but not impossible. If you're someone who gets massage infrequently, you've probably noticed that you feel great after a session, but your symptoms can return only a few days later. That's because the changes that are made during the massage treatment linger in your short-term muscle memory for a while before your regular patterns, which have been entrenched, begin to take over once again. That's why it is necessary to get massage therapy frequently and regularly, and to do appropriate self-care exercises between sessions, in order to maintain those changes. In this way, you are teaching your body to heal itself through repetition, eventually forming new neural pathways for healthy muscle memory.

So don't wait until you're in pain to get a massage and do your self-care exercises. Do it now ... before your brain forgets!

Source - Massage Therapy Journal

Is your office job a pain in the neck?

Here are some tips to help you maintain healthy neck posture at work:

  1. Make sure your monitor is at eye level and directly in front of you. You shouldn't have to adjust your neck to see the screen. You can play with changing the height of your chair or putting a book under your monitor to find a position that keeps your neck and head in alignment.
  2. Get a headset. Holding a phone lends itself to all kinds of awkward neck and shoulder positions.
  3. When using the keyboard, your upper arms should be relaxed down at your sides and your elbow bent 90 degrees and wrists straight. This keeps you in a natural, comfortable position. Otherwise, you risk neck, shoulder, wrist, or upper back pain.
  4. Take frequent breaks. Every hour or so, stand up and stretch or take a little walk. This will prevent you from falling into bad postural patterns often brought on by hours of sitting at a desk. Frequent short breaks will relax your body, increase your awareness, and promote circulation. It's kind of like a reboot for the body.
  5. Stay hydrated. Muscles and tissues become stiff without proper hydration, increasing the likelihood of muscle cramps and tissue adhesions. You need even more hydration if you drink coffee or soda.
  6. Support your lumbar spine. Some chairs have good lumbar support, but if yours doesn't, you can purchase a special lumbar support for your chair or use firm pillows. This will help you maintain spinal alignment and lessen your chances of leaving work with an aching back or neck.

Spending hours at a computer every day really takes its toll on the body. Take steps to avoid chronic pain issues, and your job won't have to be such a pain in the neck.

What's new with me ...

I've been enjoying my class in advanced medical massage. It's great to be back in a classroom setting with fellow therapists and an excellent teacher.

I love autumn, but I'm not a fan of the cold weather that follows. But this December, my husband and I are interrupting the winter with a vacation to St. Martin!

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American Massage Therapy Association

Swedish InstituteCertified Myoskeletal TherapistNational Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork

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