Rachel Richards

licensed massage therapist

east village, nyc

News: September 2011

Make that painful cramp go away!

Ever had a charley horse? Most of us have, and it's not fun. Your whole body clenches up from the pain and you don't know what to do to make it go away. Do you move, do you stay still?

Well, I'm here to teach you a little trick that almost always relieves a cramp. If the cramp is in your calf, simply put your hand over the top of your foot and press your foot up against your hand. What you're doing here is called reciprocal inhibition. The two muscle groups we're dealing with in this example are the ones in the front leg, on your shin, and the ones in the back leg, your calf. If your calf is the agonist, then the shin is the antagonist. An agonist and antagonist cannot both contract at the same time. When you press the top of your foot against your hand, you are contracting the shin muscles (the antagonist), causing your calf muscles (the agonist) to relax, thereby alleviating the cramp.

It's easy to see how this works by using your arm muscles. Try contracting your biceps. You do this by bending the shoulder and the elbow (the "show-off-your-muscles" pose). In order for you to do this, the antagonist, your triceps on the other side of your arm, needs to relax so it can stretch and allow the movement to happen. When your triceps contract, they straighten the elbow and extend the shoulder back - the opposite actions of the biceps.

Relax your biceps so you can contract your triceps, straightening the elbow, and extending your arm behind you. Now try contracting both your biceps and your triceps at the same time. You can't!

The same applies to your legs, and all other muscle groups in the body. So, now you know how to fix a charley horse. If someone happens to ask what you're doing, you can proudly say, "I'm using reciprocal inhibition."

Laughter really IS the best medicine

That's why there's Laughter Yoga. Groups get together and ... well, laugh! Deep hearty laughs can lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety, and allow us to take deeper breaths.

A study presented at Southern California's Loma Linda University showed that even the anticipation of a good laugh causes hormonal changes. Laughter produces more serotonin, the body's natural antidepressant, beta-endorphins, the body's natural pain-killers, and human growth hormones, which boost our immune responses. For the subjects in the study, these effects lasted up to 24 hours!

Massage Magazine explains that in Laughter Yoga, "Simple laughter exercises are combined with gentle, yogic breathing as a form of stress management and physical fitness. As participants do the laughter exercises, genuine laughter is created through eye contact and childlike playfulness. This experience is more than just fun; it can be transformational."

So, do your body and mind a favor by joining a Laughter Yoga class, or just practice laughing on your own. Right now, I'm having a good laugh about the word "yogic."

What's new with me ...

It's September, and that means back-to-school - for me, too. This month and next, I'm taking courses to gain extra certification in advanced medical massage!

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American Massage Therapy Association

Swedish InstituteCertified Myoskeletal TherapistNational Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork

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Available now!

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