Archive for the ‘Detoxification’ Category

Recovery and Therapeutic Techniques- Part 2.

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A spinal nerve with its anterior and posterior...

A spinal nerve with its anterior and posterior roots. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The article/blog post I wrote a few months back entitled, I Have a Message…Go Get a Massage received a good amount of interest, as well as feedback.  I had originally intended to cover several of the therapeutic and recovery techniques that I recommend and employ myself.  After awhile of editing and shortening, I realized there was just far too much info for a single post.  I suppose this could be considered the sequel, so without me rambling on and on (probably going off in a totally different direction in the process) lets get into some of the other therapy practices I believe in.

Perhaps the most polarizing of all “mainstream” healthcare practitioners’ are Chiropractors.  I’ve heard so many varying opinions when it comes to chiropractic care it’s mind boggling. The sentiment towards Chiropractors, at least from what individuals I’ve worked with over the years, ranges from, “Dr. Chiro allowed me to walk again” to “it’s all Dr. Chiro’s fault I’ll never walk again.”  I think this originates from a misunderstanding of what a Chiropractor intends to accomplish through his or her manipulation and adjustments to the effected area of the body.  Your nervous system controls and coordinates all functions with-in the body, when the signals being sent through the system get interfered with, parts of the body will not receive proper messages.  Therefore, impairing proper movement patterns, these impairments are not isolated ONLY to the directly affected area of the body.  That’s only the beginning, remember, the body is a kinetic chain working in harmony like a well conducted orchestra.  Just like an orchestra, the human body is harmonious until just ONE of the numerous possibilities is off tune or misaligned.  This can dramatically alter the sound and flow of the entire orchestra or human body.

A subluxation refers to an incomplete or partial dislocation of a joint or organ.  More specifically a vertebral subluxation is when one or more of the bones of the spine move out of position and create pressure of irritation of spinal nerves.  Spinal nerves are the nerves between each of the bones in the spine.  The pressure or irritation causes these nerves to malfunction and interfere with the signals traveling over the nerves.  It’s the responsibility of the Doctor of Chiropractic to locate subluxations and reduce or correct them.  This is done through a series of chiropractic adjustments designed to correct the vertebral subluxations in your spine.  A study conducted by Drs. Anthony Lauro and Brian Mouch, published in The Journal of Chiropractic Research and Clinical Investigation(1991) indicated chiropractic care might improve athletic performance by 16.7% over a two week period.  Like I always say 1% of something, is better than 100% of nothing.  The report also concluded that subluxation free athletes react faster, coordinate better, and execute fine movements with improved accuracy and precision, amounting to an overall better athlete.  In closing, when the body is aligned properly, your nervous system is tuned allowing the kinetic chain to fire in unison.  This leads to peak performance, fewer injuries and faster recovery.

One practice in particular that I’d like to mention is acupuncture.  Acupuncture is a technique of inserting and manipulating fine filiform needles into specific points on the body with the aim of relieving pain for therapeutic purposes.  According to traditional Chinese acupuncture theory, the acupuncture points lie along meridians along which Qi (chi or ch’i) the vital energy flows.  Some of the benefits of acupuncture include a quick reduction in inflammation, as well as, releasing pressure form trigger points which greatly accelerates the healing process.  The importance of reducing any inflammation is that it prevents blood stagnation via release of osmotic pressure away form the injury, again creating a more efficient healing process.  Additional benefits form acupuncture include increased circulation, a boost to the immune system, many patients claim increased energy and serenity, and it has been found to be especially effective in treating ligament and tendon strains which are quite common among training athletes.  Regular acupuncture enthusiasts claim that it helps significantly in their training and performance.  A number of avenues such as building muscle mass, increased glycogen storage, improvement in fast twitch muscle fiber activation and overall energy which are paramount for a great performance.  To give you an idea of the athletic influence that acupuncture has take the 1993 Chinese National Games where a total of 9 women broke world records and claim to have only used legal Chinese herbs and the constant use of acupuncture treatments.  Acupuncture is becoming so respected that for the first time ever it was offered during the Beijing Olympics in 2008, for all athletes and officials to incorporate into their recovery, healing, medical and whatever other forms of treatment they desired (within the parameters of IOC guidelines of course).

Lastly, I want to briefly discuss TENS therapy which stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.  This type of therapy is performed by placing electrodes on a desired location of the body, either directly on an effected area, or at key points along the nerve pathway.  A small battery powered generator emits a milli-amp of electricity through wire leads to the electrodes.  TENS therapy is often used in pain management protocols as well as physical therapy, however I intend to discuss what I believe to be the benefit of TENS therapy for a high performance athlete.  As I discussed when we train we breakdown the muscle fibers and repair them through proper nutrition and so on.  Over the course of these processes we develop micro scaring in the muscles and I believe a TENS unit is great in assisting in the break up of the scare tissue.  One of the reasons for the excellent healing properties of TENS therapy is the increased circulation it brings to the area where the electrodes are placed.  In my experiences, I notice that TENS therapy tends to “open” the muscles fibers, what I mean is, I simply feel there is more volume to the muscle bellies after this type of a therapy session.  I wouldn’t say that there’s a time limit on transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, but I find thirty minutes to be sufficient.  If you plan on having any longevity in your sport of choice it’s imperative that you put just as much effort into recovery and healing your bodies as you do to training and practice.  Being at your absolute best is a 24/7 job, attention to detail is a must in order to achieve Ultimate Human Performance.

The Forbidden (timing of) Fruit!.

Lymphatic System Series (part 1 of 3)- Lymph.

When’s the last time you walked into the Doctor’s office and asked for a Lymphatic check-up or asked for a Lymph support formula at your local supplement retailer??  I’m gonna go out on a limb and say, probably not very recently…what I really mean is, for 99% of people the answer is NEVER!!  The problem is, how can anyone really be expected to show concerned for, or lose sleep over something they know almost nothing about!?   I’ll be the first to admit, only as of recently have I truly been able to grasp the importance of this intricate system…The Lymphatic System is something you learn about briefly during the Circulatory and/or Immune System chapter’s in Anatomy and Physiology 101, and unless you’re a Pre-Med student that’s the last you really hear of it.  Even then I believe it’s importance is grossly ignored among Medical Professionals as a whole…why??  I’m going to let you in on a little secret…if Doctors truly “cured” their patients, they’d be out of a job before they could say, “scamming ain’t easy.”  Oh, and another thing, if we properly implemented nutrition and exercise programs to prevent health issues…we’d no long need massive amounts of medications from one of the most highly influential “groups” looming over our Country’s government…Pharmaceutical Companies (aka, Big Pharm…follow the money trail people)!  Okay, okay, I digress…my intention for this series on the Lymphatic System has absolutely nothing to do with neither myself nor a political soapbox!
The Lymph System is a network of organs, lymph nodes, lymph ducts, and lymph vessels that produce and transport lymph from tissues to the bloodstream.  The lymph system is a major component of the body’s immune system.  Because this system is rather complex, as well as it is truly unique and interesting, I’ve decided to make this a 3 part series as not to overwhelm (bore) you with information.  As I’ve said countless times before…The better and more complete of an understanding you have of the how’s and why’s in which we all function as humans, the more likely you all are to adhere to some of the ways in which it’s possible to optimize the benefits of lymphatic drainage(which I will certainly delve into) .

Part One: Lymph- (Latin; lympha “water goddess”)
Fact- The human body contains four times more lymph than it does blood!!…That statistic still blows my mind!  I purposely throw it out there to being with in order to stress the mere abundance of lymph…which in turn should spark your interest about a fluid that literally saturates your entire body.  If it doesn’t, I hear ignorance is bliss…continue!!  For those looking to maximize every aspect in which you can ensure a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life, let’s start from the beginning.
Lymph is a clear- to yellowish white fluid made up of white blood cells, especially lymphocytes, the cells that attack bacteria in the blood.  A portion of lymph is comprised of a fluid from the intestines called Chyle; chyle is a milky white fluid containing emulsified fat and other products of digestion, formed from chyle in the small intestines and conveyed by the lacteals and thoracic duct to the veins (Dictionary.com definition).  Lymph in the body is analogous to your cities sewage system…nobody pays much mind to it until stops working properly or gets clogged.
In order to best explain the formation of lymph, let’s backpedal for a moment…Blood supplies nutrients and important metabolites to the cells of a tissue and collects back the waste products they produce, which requires a change of respective constituents between the blood and tissue cells.  However, this exchange is not direct but instead is effected through an intermediary called interstitial fluid or tissue fluid that the blood forms.  Interstitial fluid (ISF) is the fluid that occupies the spaces between the cells and constitutes their immediate environment.  As the blood and the surrounding cells continually add and remove substances from the ISF, it’s composition continually changes (the process of  movement by which these fluids travel throughout the body will be discussed in depth in parts 2 & 3).  ISF forms at the arterial (coming from the heart) end of the capillaries because of the higher pressure of blood compared to veins, and most of it returns to its venous ends and venues; the rest (1%) enters the lymph capillaries as lymph.  Thus, lymph when formed is a watery clear liquid with the same composition as the ISF.  However, as it flows through the lymph nodes it comes in contact with blood, and tends to accumulate more cells (particularly, lymphocytes) and proteins.
Unlike the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system is not closed and has no central pump.  Lymph transport, therefore, is slow and sporadic.  As lymph circulates, it is pulled into the lymphatic system, an extensive network of vessels and capillaries which is linked to lymph nodes, small nodules which act as filters to trap unwanted substances in the lymph.  Lymph nodes also produce more white blood cells, refreshing the lymph before it’s pumped out of the lymphatic system and back into the body.  Lymph may not be as “showy” as blood, but it is related to an equally complex and ornate system of vessels…This is a good stopping point, by now I hope you have a better understanding about lymph, as well as, a brief introduction to the lymphatic system as a whole, and more importantly a preview or glimpse into part two of this series, where I’ll get into the circulation and re-circulation of lymph and the vessels that make it all possible.

I Have a Message….Go Get a Massage!!!.

As athletes we put our bodies through such a great amount of physical abuse from vigorous training regimens, long, hard fought games, and hours of intense practice.  In my experience it’s amazing how little athletes do to repair their bodies from this abuse.  Remember, the body is a kinetic chain, all components of this chain exist interdependently.  If one segment is not functioning efficiently, then the other components must compensate, leading to tissue overload, fatigue, and faulty movement patterns.  In order to truly get the most out of one’s physical abilities, it’s vital to be at 100% or as close to it as possible going into every game, practice, or training session.  I’m a firm believer it’s not practice that makes perfect, rather perfect practice makes perfect.    I want to highlight several ways to help athletes competing in any sport to assist their bodies recovery processes in quest of Ultimate Human Performance.
It’s no surprise to me that massage therapy techniques are being incorporated by athletes at all levels of competitive sports.  Massage therapy is so widely respected in fact, that in 1996, it became an official part of the medical services provided for the athletes during the Olympic games in Atlanta.  The benefits of massage therapy are vast.  Here’s a few analogies that may help to better understand how massage can be advantageous to any athlete.  Your car gives off carbon monoxide as a waste product of running, when we exhale we breathe out carbon dioxide as a waste product of respiration, when we train and play sports our muscles produce waste products in the form of acids and unwanted stress hormones( most notably lactic acid and cortisol).  Massage therapy is an excellent way to directly create circulation within the target muscles.  This increase in blood flow is great for removing these toxins from the muscles which are ultimately eliminated (or neutralized) from the body creating a more preferred environment for growth and recovery.  Massage involves applying mechanical pressure to the soft tissues, and this is believed to result in improved muscle flexibility, increased range of motion in the joints, and decrease muscle stiffness.  Also through massage therapy we can increase the temperature of the muscle, as well as a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure.  Many athletes report feelings of relaxation, reduced anxiety, and improved mood as a result of massage therapy.  Indeed, many athletes do find an edge as a result of these psychological benefits (physiological benefits are the aforementioned advantages).  In my opinion, the most overlooked and under appreciated aspect of massage therapy is the mind/muscle connection that is created by the neuromuscular re-education that occurs during deep tissue work.  It can become a little painful at times, however it’s an integral part of the recovery process for any athlete to regain balance, rhythm, and flexibility or you won’t be as quick and responsive on the field the next time out.  Thus far I’ve been referring to the benefits of massage therapy as it relates to a healthy, injury free athlete.  It’s important to note that the injury healing properties of a deep tissue massage are invaluable as well…simply put, massage therapy allows copious amounts of nutrient laden blood to saturate an effected area therefore decreasing healing time immensely.  **I purposely did not get into the affects on the Lymphatic system, I am however currently working on a future, in depth article on Lymph, Lymph Nodes, essentially the entire Lymphatic System!
Those who don’t have access to a good massage therapist, or just don’t have the extra money for a massage can still get many of the benefits of a deep tissue massage through techniques referred to as, self myofascial release and trigger point therapy.  Fascia is a seamless web of connective tissue that covers and connects the muscle, organs, and skeletal structures in our bodies.  Fascia is located between the skin and the underlying structure of the muscles and bones.  Muscle and fascia form the myofacia system.  Muscle fascia can be manipulated either directly of indirectly, allowing the connective tissue fibers to reorganize in a more flexible, functional fashion.  One of the most effective times to incorporate deep myofascial stretching is in between your sets while training.  Stretching the muscle fascia during bouts of hypertrophy can cause a cascade of anabolic activity within the body. This is great for maintaining the elasticity to the muscle and creating greater blood volume to the training muscles, not to mention the injury prevention aspect of this principle.  Remember, more blood to the muscle means more nutrient delivery.  Think of it like this, if you put an iguana in a restricted size habitat the animal is limited on how large it can grow.  If you allow it to develop in an open environment with plenty of space, it’s growth potential is inherently maximized.  The muscles are no different, think of the fascia as a housing structure for your muscles, the more you can stretch and expand the “cage” of the muscle fibers, the more you increase your bodies potential for growth and development.  Trigger Points are simply what we refer to as knots in the skeletal muscle.  Generally they are hyper-irritable spots associated with distinct nodules in taut bands of muscle fibers.  I believe that trigger points are a form of our bodies natural defense system.  For example, when we have any type of nerve impingement or a minor strain(which is not uncommon in sports) our bodies have a defense mechanism to lock around the injury as a protective measure.  Your probably asking yourself, what avenues can I as an athlete take to combat this and what role do I play in self myofascial release?  My personal favorite apparatus for self massage is any old rolling pin, simply put a good amount of pressure with the rolling pin on the muscle or muscles your targeting and roll it up and down as well as side and side.  Keeping in mind to stretch the muscle during and after the self massage.  Another household object I like to use is a golf ball.  You may either lay on the ground or use a wall to place the ball around the trigger point and by allowing your body weight to press against the golf ball you can really dig into the effected area.  With the golf ball therapy it’s not necessary to use any more resistance that your own body weight, press the ball into the knot for approximately 10 sec before releasing, then repeat several times before moving to another area.  Ideally you want to target each area for anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes followed of course by deep stretching, this goes for the rolling pin concept as well.  If you attend a gym or health club you have probably seen long cylindrical foam rollers, they can be used in the same way as the rolling pin and golf ball, however the foam rollers do allow a little more versatility and has a larger surface area, which can be useful for larger muscle groups.