Thursday, February 5, 2009

Let's talk about Pecs, baby.

And speaking of Body Massage, lets talk about Pectoralis Major. It matters to us as cyclists.

That's the big "Hulk" chest muscle you see so well developed by Lou Ferrigno there, whom you might not like if he were angry. It has 3 movements & 3 sets of fibers which perform these movements. 1) The upper fibers of Pec Major pull the arm up and across the chest, 2) The middle fibers of the Pec Major pull the arm straight across the chest, and 3) You guessed it, the lower fibers pull the arm down and across the chest. Performing the opposite of these 3 actions is a good idea for us as people( but even more specifically as cyclists) because fundamentally: STRETCHING IS A GOOD IDEA.

One of the imbalances we experience in our profession/obsession ( and many others, as well, that tend to put the body in a forward head, rounded shoulder posture- with the shoulders and arms suspended in front) are tight/shortened: Pectoralis Major, Pectoralis Minor (what a sleeper, and the subject for another day) and Serratus Anterior (another sleeper seldom adressed in casual massage). All pull the shoulders forward & protract the scapula. This creates overstretched and weakened Rhomboids (chevron shaped muscles in our upper-mid back which retract our scapulae, pull the shoulder blades back to midline) ,Infraspinatus & Teres Minors.
This common problem is called Adaptive Shortening (AS). AS is defined as a tightness that occurs as a result of the muscle(s) remaining in a shortened position for an extended period of time. A lot of folks find this manifesting as a dull ache in their upper back, sometimes extending into the shoulder or up the neck. Oftentimes, Levator Scapulae are involved.

This muscle raises your shoulder blade, and is engaged unconsciously under stress as we hike our shoulders. Much of it's discomfort is rooted in the tug forward by pecs.

Sound like you and yours? Unless the opposing muscle(s) are able to pull the body back to natural position (less and less likely with habitual posture) or some outside force (i.e. Stretching) is exerted to lengthen the short muscle, it will remain in a shortened condition.

See Eddy assume the position

Meaning that just because you're not holding the bars anymore, your muscles (which have been engaged for extended periods) will not ease up completely and return to their full length on their own. They will hold the shape they've assumed during your long exertion. This WILL become chronic if unadressed, and has potential to alter the shape of our bodies. Those older folks walking around hunched & stooped? Not all of that is osteoporosis- much is due to chronic muscle contraction. Now I get to say: "Wolf's Law formulates that bones react to external forces so as to conform to them", which means your skellington will adapt to whatever pull or friction, etc. it is subject to, and change accordingly. This process doesn't happen overnight, it takes time.

What we need to do for ourselves (or trade money to a therapist with a sense of humor & touch to do for us) is:

a) Stretch the Pecs & Serratus Anterior (more of a Spiderman type muscle- the muscley fingers reaching around from back to front under the Pecs along the ribs). Quality massage and stretching of these muscles in front will "take a load off" the muscles in back (typically the ones to feel sore or tender) and allow them to regain some of their natural/balanced positioning. Bob Anderson's book, Stretching is a great resource. Yoga is real nice, too.And,

b)you can gain temporary relief from trigger points in levator scapulae by lying on the floor and rolling on a tennis ball. I like to do this after long rides in addition to stretching. With your fingers, noodle around your back at the top inside corner of your shoulder blade, you will find a tender spot(s) that feels familiar. Place the tennis ball under your back at that point, and use your opposing hand to grasp the wrist of the tennis-balled arm. Rotate your tennis-balled arm across your chest and overhead in gentle arcs. You will feel the different fibers being compressed as they are brought into contact with your tennis ball fulcrum. It may be uncomfortable. That's OK. Keep at it. Stop and stay awhile if a particular angle feels so right, give it 15-20 seconds max, and move on. If it is too intense, you can work in a spiral around the ultrasensitive spot and progress to being right on top of it as the intensity lessens. As you work out those trigger points/knots you will experience a renewed sense of well being in that arm and neck. Enjoy it while it lasts. As you stretch your pecs and regain postural balance, this spot will require less and less attention, but it is one of the hallmarks of being in a human body that we are prone to this. It will help also, if you

c) strengthen the back-Rhomboids, Mid Traps, Infraspinatus & Teres Minor muscles. See your Trainer for expert advice on the strengthening...but I'd hazard a guess that flys would help in this regard. And now's a great time to start/be doing some weight training. If you feel this might be you, DON'T have (or let) your therapist dig into your back-these muscles are already overstretched and weak (which is one reason they may hurt). Any deep massage or overstretching will further relax/stretch/weaken them. They need strengthening before massaging or stretching deeply.

As for me...on long tours, I've found I can get nice release by sitting up and placing my fist next to my spine as high up my back as possible and pushing in with it while pulling the same shoulder rearwards and arching my back. It's worth a try for your sake. Sitting up on longer rides and swinging your arms across your chest and then back as far as they can go several times is also helpful.

Eddy stretched his pecs with the Madison Sling...

So. Stretch yourself!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Massage relatively unknown?

Here is a link to an article promoting massage for cyclists. While I agree that massage for cyclists is a fine idea, for the reasons listed there as well as others, I do not think massage in cycling has been as little regarded as that text suggests. There are many examples of massage for cyclists in the popular press surrounding it.

Eric Zabel, on the table in Hell on Wheels. Who can say if it was massage that gave him such heart, that enabled him to ride all season, and to remain competitive for so long? One of the greats. Rolf Aldag receives quality work in the film as well.

In general, massage in cycling (or whichever sport; cycling just happens to be my chosen interest) can help increase performance by:

1) Increasing blood flow-with attendant benefits of better nutrition and increased oxygen supply for muscles, as well as increased removal of metabolic waste. This greatly speeds and improves recovery!

2)Improving flexibility- both through actual stretching and passive movement through range of motion , as well as increasing the range of a given muscle(s) through relaxation of trigger points or adhesions in the muscle(s) opposite. For example, if there were a tightness in your hamstrings, this affects not only the action of those muscles in the back/upwards half of the pedal stroke, but also inhibits the full use of quadriceps in the extension/downstroke as well. By reducing or eliminating this hangup, the entire pedal stroke is freed to be as round as you can make it.

3)Reducing scar tissue- which will permit greater ease and range in movement, with a frequent decrease in associated pain.

4)Reducing stress-which is nice. Feeling well is important, don't fool yourself.

5)Fine tuning your fit on the bike- this can be accomplished as we work together over a period of time and your "stuff"- that is, your chronic areas of complaint- becomes evident and diminished through the work itself or a combination of the work and changes in bike fit to better accommodate your person.

Biaggio Cavanna, "the magician of the muscles" with his protege- Fausto Coppi, Il Campionissimo.

Now. If only I can get a massage table made like this:

Contact me (by clicking on the profile for my email) to get the wheel rolling.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mr Body Massage Machine, GO...

Body Massage.

I just love that clip.

So, welcome! You made it here, you must be interested in bodywork one way or another. I am not sure what styles the fellow in the GI Joe PSA is practicing, but he has a good sense of humor, huh? I like to flatter myself that I do, too. Hopefully you, as well.

Because "Kick Ass Massage" as a title may seem a questionable choice to you, I'll explain.

Have you ever received bodywork and felt it was so much fluff? Have you had a therapist who did not listen to your assessment of your body/situation? A therapist who had their "routine", and that was what you got? Have you ever left the table feeling just the same as when you got on?

That is weak practice.

Now, contrastingly, have you ever gotten up off the table and felt your chronic _________ (insert musculoskeletal condition here) to be on the mend? Have you had a therapist whose "routine" is to adjust that session's work to your concerns of that day? Who listened to, and actively sought your thoughts on your situation? Have you ever received bodywork based on a sound understanding of human anatomy and a genuine interest in health?

This is my practice. It is kick ass.