Massage outperforms meds for low back pain, study finds

Is it conceivable that massage can provide more effective relief from low back pain than medication? A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests this therapy might indeed alleviate back pain better in the short term than traditional interventions of medicine, bed rest or exercise: Healthday reports.

The investigation conducted by the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle involved 400 patients who had low back pain, the majority of which were middle aged, Caucasian and female. Researchers found those who were given a series of relaxation massage or structural massage were better able to work and be active than those who were given traditional medical care, such as pain pills, muscle relaxants or physical therapy.

According to The New York Times, the study’s participants were randomly divided into three groups: structural massage, relaxation massage and traditional care. Patients in the massage groups received one hour of therapy weekly for 10 weeks.

At the conclusion of the 10 week period, over one-third of the patients who were given massage therapy reported their pain was much improved or eliminated completely, as opposed to only one in 25 patients who were given traditional care. Furthermore, patients in the massage groups were twice as likely to have spent fewer days in bed rest, used less pain pills and participated in more activity than the traditional care group.

Lead author Daniel Cherkin was surprised by the fact that structural massage did not prove superior to relaxation massage in relieving pain. Structural massage involves manipulating specific back pain related muscles and ligaments, while relaxation massage, otherwise known as Swedish massage, involves inducing body-wide relaxation.

The beneficial effects of the massage seemed not only to be experienced during the 10-week therapy period, but also to linger for a time following the cessation of therapy. Evidence of this lingering effect was manifested by the fact that the massage groups continued to display improved function six months after the study’s onset. At the one year mark, however, no significant differences were found in the three groups.

Although the researchers were uncertain of massage therapy’s exact mechanism of action for easing back pain, they voiced several theories. One suggestion was that it either stimulated tissue locally or produced a general central nervous system response. Another speculation was that merely spending time in a relaxing environment and feeling cared for might have been responsible for the improvement. An additional factor to consider is the subjectivity that is impossible to eliminate in such studies. Patients in the control group were aware that the other groups were receiving massage and this knowledge may have caused them to discount their own progress.

It should be reiterated that the study suggests rather than proves the benefit of massage for back pain. Also, some members of the American medical community not associated with the research have expressed reluctance to accept the suggested benefits as being valid.

Conversely, the study’s authors offered their assessments of its import. Cherkin characterizes the results as being “pretty strong.” He states the massage was tested on patients who did not improve using the standard medical approach to back pain treatment. He feels that massage therapy is a reasonable thing to try for anyone getting insufficient relief from this malady. The coauthor, Dr. Richard Deyo, feels that massage appears to provide clinicians with another choice for managing the challenging medical problem of chronic low back pain.

Learn more:

Mary West. “Therapeutic Massage of SWFL | Massage Therapy | Massage Therapist.” Therapeutic Massage of SWFL | Massage Therapy | Massage Therapist. November 5, 2015. Accessed May 23, 2016.!Massage-outperforms-meds-for-low-back-pain-study-finds/c1usb/563bf34d0cf2c322b49657ae.

5 Benefits of Massage for Fibromyalgia Patients

National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day is May 12 each year—and a good reminder for massage therapists to consider how healthy touch can help the 5 million Americans estimated, by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMSD), to live with the pain and tenderness of fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia causes pain throughout the body, with tenderness in joints, as well as in muscles, tendons and other soft tissues. Although there is no cure for this painful syndrome, pain can be managed—and massage for fibromyalgia patients is one way to practice pain management.

This condition still remains a mystery to allopathic caregivers.

Fibromyalgia is seen in approximately 5 million Americans, according to the NIAMSD, and affects females more than males by a 9:1 ratio. Primary age range to acquire this condition is between 20 and 50 years old.

The Fibromyalgia Patient

Particular characteristics and certain demographics of fibromyalgia sufferers were studied recently, within the context of a national health survey. Results from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) conducted by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, released in late 2015, indicated that:

  • People with fibromyalgia had high levels of pain, non-pain symptoms, and psychological distress.
  • Their fibromyalgia-like symptoms were severe and continuous.
  • About 27 percent were diagnosed with fibromyalgia by a physician.
  • About 73 percent who were not diagnosed with fibromyalgia were told they had rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus or low-back pain.
  • They were more likely to have co-occurring major medical conditions, such as heart attack; hypertension; diabetes; depression or other mental illnesses; rheumatoid arthritis; or lupus.
  • They had relatively high levels of medical costs, Social Security disability and work disability.
  • Certain demographic factors and health behaviors were more highly associated with the presence of fibromyalgia, including: being female; residing in the Midwest; possessing an educational level lower than college; being divorced or separated; obesity; smoking; and being a U.S. citizen rather than a noncitizen. Fibromyalgia occurred about equally across all racial and ethnic groups, but was less common in Asians.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

The main symptom of fibromyalgia is pain, which can range from mild to severe. Pain may be characterized as shooting, burning or a deep, unrelenting ache. Soft tissue around joints may develop tender points. Pain can improve during the daytime and worsen at night, although for some people the pain remains all day.

If one has had three months or more of widespread pain, with more than 10 tender-point areas, there is a good chance that she will be diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Today, a newer method of diagnosing this condition is being adopted by physicians. This includes a 19-item checklist in which a patient indicates which body parts have felt painful in the prior week. Patterns are witnessed over time as the patient completes this checklist weekly.

Almost all fibromyalgia patients suffer from hallmark symptoms: unrefreshing sleep, fatigue and cognitive issues. Other common symptoms include headaches, anxiety and depression. Although symptoms can improve, fibromyalgia is a long-term disorder with pain and symptoms continuing years.

Massage for Fibromyalgia

There are many benefits of massage for fibromyalgia patients, and various types of massage, including myofascial release, Swedish and shiatsu have been indicated by research studies to help this clientele. Here are five of the benefits of massage for fibromyalgia patients:

  1. The first will be relaxation to improve sleep. Sessions in the evening will benefit the patient to allow better quality of sleep at night, thereby helping the body repair and rejuvenate at night more effectively.
  1. The second benefit is improved muscle tonicity. This benefit will aid lethargic muscles and help restore strength and vitality to your client’s body. Be sure to include more petrissage strokes to accomplish this goal.
  1. A third benefit will be to improve mental clarity. A relaxing session can raise healthy awareness and relieve mental stress. This can improve the client’s cognitive issues.
  1. Headache relief is the fourth benefit a fibromyalgia patient may receive. Improving blood flow to the brain can relieve the physical source of headache, while the relief received can further keep the person’s mind in a healthier space.
  1. A fifth benefit is diminishing the effects of any anxiety or depression. These effects include hormonal fluctuations, interference with appetite and chronic fight-or-flight mode. Massage can restore homeostasis of the body, thereby diminishing these effects.

The Role of Empathy

A final consideration is to remain compassionate and supportive in the fibromyalgia patient’s treatment-plan efforts. A client who presents with fibromyalgia has likely grown accustomed to family, friends and practitioners not taking her condition seriously.

A massage therapist who treats this client with empathy and respect, holding her feelings in high regard and without judgment, will make the greatest impact and produce the most favorable treatment results.

Information presented in an article is never intended to replace advice from a medical professional.


About the Author

Jimmy Gialelis, L.M.T., B.C.T.M.B., is owner of Advanced Massage Arts & Education in Tempe, Arizona. He is a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved provider of continuing education, and teaches “Working with Pathologies—Arthritis” and many other classes. He wrote “Fibromyalgia: Massage Therapy Considerations” for MASSAGE Magazine’s July 2015 print issue, and “Massage Therapy for Thyroid Health”  and “Massage for Clients with Hemophilia,” among other articles, for


Gialelis, Jimmy, L.M.T., B.C.T.M.B.. “5 Benefits of Massage for Fibromyalgia Patients.” MASSAGE Magazine. May 11, 2016. Accessed May 15, 2016.

What is naturopathic medicine?

What is naturopathic medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care system that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. It is based on the healing power of nature and it supports and stimulates the body’s ability to heal itself. Naturopathic medicine is the art and science of disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention using natural therapies including: botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, naturopathic manipulation, traditional Chinese medicine / acupuncture, and prevention and lifestyle counselling.

What can naturopathic medicine do for you?

Naturopathic medicine treats all forms of health concerns — from paediatric to geriatric, from irritating systems to chronic illness and from the physical to the psychological. Naturopathic medicine is beneficial for the following types of patients:

  • Patients that are looking for disease prevention and health promotion strategies.
  • Patients that have a range of symptoms that they have been unable to address on their own or with the help of other medical practitioners.
  • Patients that have been diagnosed with an illness, often serious or chronic and are looking for alternative treatments. Naturopathic medicine is very effective for improving quality of life for those with serious and life threatening illnesses.
  • Patients that are looking to combine conventional and naturopathic treatments with the aim of minimizing side effects of drugs, surgery or conventional treatments.

Types of Naturopathic therapies

Naturopathic doctors use a variety of non-toxic, non-pharmaceutical treatments. All naturopathic doctors in Canada are trained in the following natural therapies:

Clinical Nutrition

Clinical nutrition examines the relationship between diet and health. Special diets, food elimination, variations in dietary habits or the use of nutritional supplements may be recommended.

Botanical Medicine (Herbalism)

The use of plants for healing dates back to the beginning of civilization and is the foundation of modern pharmacology. The use of herbs in many forms: teas, tinctures or capsules are used for their healing effects and nutritional value may be recommended for healing effect.

Homeopathic Medicine

Homeopathic remedies are minute dilutions of plant, animal and mineral substances designed to stimulate the body’s “vital force” and strengthen its innate ability to heal.

Traditional Chinese Medicine / Acupuncture

Based on balancing the flow of Chi (energy) through meridian pathways under the skin, Oriental medicine includes the use of Oriental herbs and acupuncture to regulate and release Chi in order to bring the body into balance.

Physical Medicine

Physical medicine includes soft tissue work (including therapeutic massage); naturopathic manipulation of muscle, bone or the spine; hydrotherapy techniques; gentle electrical impulses, ultrasound, diathermy; and exercise therapy.

Prevention and Lifestyle Counselling

Naturopathic doctors address all aspects of a person’s life, identifying and addressing the impact that stress and life events have on a patient’s health and assisting patients to make effective lifestyle choices.

Some naturopathic doctors will have additional training in other natural therapies such as:

  • IV Therapies
  • Chelation Therapy
  • Minor Surgery
  • Colon Therapy

Conditions and illnesses treated
Naturopathic doctors are primary health care practitioners. They are trained to treat virtually all health concerns from acute to chronic, pediatric to geriatric and physical to psychological. Naturopathic doctors work with three main groups of people: 1) patients that are looking for disease prevention and health promotion, 2) patients with a range of health concerns and no clear diagnosis and 3) patients with chronic and severe illnesses.

Safe and effective treatment

The goal of naturopathic practice is to treat underlying disorders and to restore normal body function by enhancing the body’s own healing abilities. Therefore, naturopathic doctors must focus their efforts on understanding the unique needs of each patient. Naturopathic doctors assist the body’s healing powers by using safe, effective non-pharmaceutical approaches with patients.

As a result naturopathic treatments are highly individualized. Patients are involved in their treatment programs and learn to make effective, educated self-care decisions, which can prevent future health problems.

Naturopathic diagnosis and therapeutics are supported by scientific research drawn from peer-reviewed journals from many disciplines, including naturopathic medicine, conventional medicine, European complementary medicine, clinical nutrition, phytotherapy, pharmacognosy, homeopathy, psychology and spirituality.

Information technology and new concepts in clinical outcomes and assessment are particularly well-suited to evaluating the effectiveness of naturopathic treatment protocols and are being used in research, both at naturopathic medical schools and in the offices of practicing naturopathic doctors. Clinical research into natural therapies has become an increasingly important focus for naturopathic doctors.

“About Naturopathic Medicine.” Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors. 2015. Accessed May 08, 2016.


Acupuncture Can Help With Weight Loss

By Alex A. Kecskes

It’s a staggering fact that as many as a quarter of all Americans are overweight. In their struggle to lose those excess pounds, Americans spend over 33 billion dollars every year on weight-loss programs. Regrettably, a whopping 95 percent fail in their attempt to lose the weight they need to maintain good health. Fortunately, medical acupuncture can help.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine, sterile needles at specific body points or “energy pathways.” The inserted needles act to stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural “feel good” hormones. This can create a calming, relaxing effect, which counteracts the need for excessive eating brought about by increased stress, frustration or anxiety. In this respect, acupuncture can calm those so afflicted and help them lose weight without resorting to drugs.

Several studies have shown that when acupuncture is combined with traditional methods of weight loss, patients lose more weight. In these cases, one to three acupuncture weight loss sessions can be safe and effective in helping people achieve reasonable weight loss goals.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the belief is that excessive weight gains are caused mainly by an imbalance in the body due to a malfunction of the spleen and liver organ systems. Skilled acupuncture practitioners will zero in on specific body areas to effect weight loss. Among these are the endocrine system and kidneys, which are addressed to treat water retention and to stimulate nerve and hormonal rebalance. The spleen and thyroid gland are also targeted to effect sugar and hormonal rebalancing. Finally, the adrenal and ovary glands are included to treat weight gain due to menopause or Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Some people notice the effects of acupuncture fairly quickly and only require treatments every other week.

Another Chinese acupuncture practice for losing weight is ear stapling. This involves manipulating points on the ear to control food cravings. Auricular acupuncture has been used successfully to help cigarette smokers and heroin addicts kick their drug habits.  When properly administered by a qualified acupuncturist, this technique may help some people lose weight. One study, published in Medical Acupuncture, found that ear acupuncture combined with a 2,000 calorie a day diet and 15-minute walk helped reduce weight. The study involved 20 obese women, 22 to 42 years of age. Half of those who received weekly 15-minute sessions of ear acupuncture lost an average of 10 pounds. Those without ear acupuncture averaged only a three-pound loss. Moreover, the women who received the acupuncture treatments reported a decrease in appetite.

It is important to note that ear acupuncture treatments must be administered by a qualified acupuncturist. For the best results, these treatments should be combined with a reduced calorie diet and appropriate physical exercise. The critical point to be made here is that acupuncture should be viewed as a support system not a sole modality.

As with all medical conditions, always seek the advice of a doctor before beginning any acupuncture treatments for weight loss.

See more at:

Kecskes, Alex A. “Pacific College.” Acupuncture Can Help With Weight Loss. November 05, 2014. Accessed May 01, 2016.

3 Things Massage Can Help You With Right Now

We know massage will make us move better and feel happier, but not everyone can make time for regular appointments. Luckily massage is great preventive care and it can have some instantly-gratifying results. Check out these 3 things massage can help you withright now.


Tension headaches (often called stress headaches) are the most common type of headaches among adults.

Pain or pressure in your forehead or on the top or sides of your head? Could be a tension headache. It’s especially likely if you’ve been hunching over a desk or some knitting, spent a ton of time in a car, or if you’re still shivering and huddling to keep warm as spring slowly creeps in.

Massage can help get rid of that headache and regular massage may well keep it from coming back. (If you want to geek out about tension headaches and try a few self-massage techniques, check out this article.)

Low Back Pain

A major research study was published in 2011 showing that massage therapy was better than drugs and usual care for general lower back pain. Better than drugs. I just had to say that twice.

Just about everyone will experience low back pain at some point in their life. If it happens to you, don’t suffer. Schedule a massage and get back into action.


Have you ever been so cranky you got on your own nerves? Yeah, me, too. It isn’t fun. When you feel yourself biting everyone’s head off when they ask you a question, it might be time for some self-care.

Massage is great for stress relief. You get to shut off all the things that buzz and chime and aggravate you to the point of eye twitches. Music, silence, warmth, massage. All the cranky disappears.

This is dual purpose. You’ll feel better and all the people around you will be happier that you’re back to your sunny self.

Got a headache, low back pain, or a case of the grumpies? Get a massage scheduled and we’ll handle that fast.

“3 Things Massage Can Help You With Right Now.” Braille Bodywork. March 9, 2016. Accessed April 24, 2016.

What causes back pain?

Injuries to the back are the most common cause. Minor injuries may result from tripping, falling, improper lifting techniques, or too much twisting of the spine. More severe injuries may follow car accidents, falls from significant heights or landing in an awkward position on the buttocks, direct blows to the top of the head, or a penetrating injury. Sometimes back pain is due to a condition the person is born with such as scoliosis or spina bifida.

Back pain can also result from overuse injuries, which usually occur as a result of improper movement or posture when lifting, standing, walking, sleeping, or sitting. In addition to pain, symptoms can include muscle spasms, stiffness, numbness or tingling, and weakness in one or both legs.

A herniated disc (a problem with one of the rubbery discs that separate the bones of the spine) is also a common cause of back pain.

Some people are more likely to develop back pain than others, including middle aged males, people with a family history of back problems, and women who have carried a pregnancy to term. Lifestyle risk factors include smoking, being overweight, being inactive, sitting for long periods, or taking medication that weakens the bones, (such as corticosteroids).

Treatment for back pain

Most back pain disappears over time with home treatment and self-care, but if you don’t feel any improvement in the first 72 hours after the pain starts, see your doctor. During the visit, your doctor will examine your back and access your ability to sit, stand, walk, and lift your legs. Using a rubber hammer, your doctor may also test your reflexes. These tests will help determine where the pain is, your pain-free range of motion, and whether you have muscle spasms. Diagnostic tests aren’t usually necessary to confirm the source of your pain unless the doctor suspects that the pain may be the result of a more serious problem such as a fracture, tumour, infection, or other illness.

Most back pain goes away within a few weeks with the proper home treatment.

The following tips can help relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness related to your back problem:

  • Avoid bedrest. Excessive bedrest may delay healing.
  • Be active. Return to normal daily activities, and work as soon as you can, keeping in mind that you may need to limit or modify some tasks.
  • Ice the injury. Apply cold packs to the injured area for the first 24 to 48 hours. Use them for 15 to 20 minutes, three to four times a day, for at least the first two days. Cold helps decrease the swelling and pain. But the body needs to return to normal temperature between cold applications, so don’t leave the cold pack in place for longer than 20 minutes at a time.
  • Apply heat after 48 to 72 hours, if the swelling is gone. Use a warm pack or heating pad set on low. Some experts recommend alternating between heat and cold treatments.
  • Gently massage your injury. Sometimes massaging an injury may help relieve pain and encourage blood flow to the area. However, do not massage the area if it causes too much pain.
  • Use pain medication as needed. Over-the-counter pain medications can help you manage your discomfort, especially during activity. You pharmacist can help you select an appropriate product.
  • Be cautious. Avoid sitting up in bed, sitting on soft couches, and twisting or sitting in positions that make your pain worse.
  • Begin moderate exercise. Once the pain begins to lessen, start taking short walks on level surfaces to keep your muscles strong. Avoid hills and stairs. Add to your exercise program every week to slowly build strength and endurance. Yoga may be a beneficial addition to your exercise program.
  • Physical therapy. Advice on proper movement from a trained professional can help you get back to normal activity.

An ounce of prevention

There time you spend sitting at desks, in cars, or in front of the television or computer, the more you must do to prevent back pain. The following tips will help keep your back healthy and strong:

  • Exercise. Aerobic exercises that don’t irritate your back can increase strength in your lower back, helping the muscles function better. Some of the best choices include walking, bicycling, swimming, and yoga. Speak to your doctor to determine the best activity for you.
  • Build strength and flexibility. Condition your stomach and back muscles for better core body strength. More flexibility in your hips and upper legs encourages proper pelvic bone align meant, which can improve your back feels.
  • Butt out. Smokers have lower oxygen levels in their spinal tissues, which can slow the healing process.
  • Stand tall. When you have to stand for long periods, try to rest one foot at a time on a low footstool to take some of the load off your back.
  • Sit straight. Choose seats that offer good lower back support, armrests, and a swivel base. Pillow or rolled towel in the small of your back may also help your back maintain its normal curve. Keep your knees and hips level.
  • Lift carefully. When lifting, let your legs do the work. Move up and down, keeping your back straight and bending only at the knees. Hold your load close to your body and avoid lifting and twisting at the same time. If the item is too heavy, get someone to help you.
  • Sleep smart. Use a firm or medium-firm mattress for better support. Be careful that your pillows don’t force your neck into a severe angle.

Fortunately, back pain is often short-lived and causes no permanent damage in most cases. Most people can resume their normal daily routines once the pain has subsided. If you have any questions about back care or medications for back pain, speak to your doctor or London Drugs pharmacist.

Massage Therapy for a Better Night’s Sleep

Published on May 23, 2014
By Kray Kibler, CFO, Massage Warehouse

Adequate sleep is necessary for healthy functioning, and quality sleep is vital to health and wellness. But an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans experience sleep issues that affect their health,1 often leading to low work performance, slowed reaction time, obesity, higher risk of long-term disease, and substance abuse.

Chronic insomnia causes extreme fatigue and problems with concentration, and can adversely affect a person’s mood and well-being. For healthcare professionals, helping patients overcome insomnia is critical for fostering overall health and wellness.3 According to Ralph Pascualy, MD, medical director of the Swedish Sleep Medicine Institute (SSMI) in Seattle, both the quantity and quality of an individual’s sleep directly affect their health.

Nutrition and exercise are often recommended as the foundation of good health, but research shows that quality sleep should also be part of any holistic treatment. Those who sleep less than 8 hours per night are experiencing “sleep debt,” which cannot be reversed by sleeping more on the weekend.

According to the Mayo Clinic, studies have found massage to be beneficial for insomnia-related stress, as well as:

  • Anxiety
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Paresthesias and nerve pain
  • Soft tissue strains or injuries
  • Sports injuries
  • Temporomandibular joint pain

Benefits of Massage Therapy

The National Institutes of Health has advised that massage therapy can reduce fatigue and improve sleep5 and, based on research gathered by the American Massage Therapy Association, massage has been shown to improve sleep in infants, children, adults, and the elderly alike, as well as individuals with psychiatric disorders, fibromyalgia, cancer, heart disease, lower back pain, cerebral palsy, and breast disease.1

Anne Williams, director of education, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, and author of Spa Bodywork and Teaching Massage, says, “Massage helps people spend more time in deep sleep, the restorative stage in which the body barely moves, which reduces the neurotransmitter associated with pain.”

There are many different types of massage, including these common types:

  • Swedish massage: This is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration, and tapping to help relax and energize.
  • Deep massage: This massage technique uses slower, more-forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, commonly to help with muscle damage from injuries.
  • Sports massage: This is similar to Swedish massage, but it’s geared toward people involved in sport activities to help prevent or treat injuries.
  • Trigger point massage: This massage focuses on areas of tight muscle fibers that can form in muscles after injuries or overuse.

The chemistry of sleep is relevant in relation to massage because it directly influences the body’s production of serotonin, which is essential for the production of melatonin. A study on back pain, published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, demonstrated that in addition to a decrease in long-term pain, subjects receiving massage experienced improved sleep and an increase in serotonin levels.

Results were based on twice-weekly, 30-minute massages for 5 weeks, using these techniques:

  • Kneading and pressing the back muscles
  • Massaging both sides of the spine and hips
  • Gliding rubs to the legs
  • Kneading and pressing the thighs

In the supine position, participants received:

  • Gliding strokes to the neck and abdomen
  • Kneading of the rectus and oblique muscles that help bend the trunk of the body forward
  • Rubbing of the legs
  • Kneading of the anterior thighs
  • Flexing of the thighs and knees
  • Gentle pulling on both legs

In addition to other assessments, a sleep scale to measure quality of sleep and urine samples to measure levels of serotonin were used in the study.


Massage is a smart, healthy, and drug-free option that has helped many people overcome insomnia. Because melatonin influences the sleep stage of an individual’s circadian rhythm, a natural way of boosting serotonin is a positive sleep-inducing option. This connection calls for further research showing the direct effects massage therapy has on serotonin and sleep. In the meantime, the existing evidence is enough to recommend regular massages for sleepless patients.3

A growing number of healthcare professionals recognize the benefits of taking a multidisciplinary approach to patients in order to better identify the source of illness4—rather than simply treating the symptoms. At the same time, sleeping pills and pain killers should take a back seat to complementary and alternative forms of medicine, including massage therapy, for treating the whole person and improving outcomes.

Massage Warehouse, Kray Kibler, CFO. “Massage Therapy for a Better Night’s Sleep – Sleep Review.” Sleep Review. May 23, 2014. Accessed April 17, 2016.

Heading off headaches

Except for head colds, headaches are the most common human ailment. In fact, headaches beat out backaches as the number-one cause of time lost from work. Approximately three out of every four people will have at least one headache within the year.

Some headaches, like migraines, are caused by a disturbance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. However, according to Dr Janet Travell and Dr David Simons, specialists in musculoskeletal pain, “It is now becoming clear that tension headache is usually due to trigger points.”

Trigger points are small knots that develop in muscles. These knots or mini-spasms make pain travel to different areas of the body, often nowhere near the knot itself. For example, trigger points at the top of your neck can send pain directly into your eye.

The name trigger point comes from the fact that these knots can sit in your muscles for ages without causing pain until something “triggers” them to become active. Common triggers include fatigue, stress, poor posture, repetitive movements at work and cold drafts.

Massage therapy is a proven way of treating trigger points for long-term headache relief. In one study, researchers found that chronic headache sufferers had dramatic relief after ten massages that focused on treatment of trigger points.

Although you may get some relief with general relaxation massage, long-term relief depends on correctly identifying and treating specific trigger points which are responsible for your pain. Single muscle trigger points can often be eliminated quickly and easily, sometimes within one or two treatments.

In more complicated cases however, it may take significant time and your active participation to get lasting results.

When should you see a doctor?

In a small number of cases, severe headaches may be a warning sign of a more serious disorder such as very high blood pressure, stroke, bleeding in the brain or even a tumour. The following signs should send you to a doctor immediately:

  •  you suddenly start having severe headaches, especially if they are your first ones and you are over 35 years of age
  •  you have a severe headache during or immediately after physical exertion or straining
  •  a headache with fever and neck stiffness
  •  a headache accompanied by confusion or difficulty speaking—especially following a blow to the head, even one that occurred several weeks earlier
  •  a headache accompanied by inflamed, clogged sinuses – it may be the result of infection and build-up of pus in the sinus passages
  •  any increase in the intensity or frequency of headaches
  •  your headache treatment guide

Many people use painkillers to get rid of their headaches. Don’t take painkillers for extended periods without consulting with your doctor. Because some medications, even over the counter drugs, have unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side effects it’s always best to rely on non-drug treatments when possible. Here are a few suggestions:

Relaxation training.

Relaxation has been shown to be extremely effective in the management of headaches. For example, one study published in the journal Headache in 1989 found that migraine sufferers who were taught relaxation exercises had 30% to 40% fewer attacks over the course of three years. The subjects were also better able to cope with the attacks when they occurred and required less medication.


Reusable gel packs are an inexpensive and simple solution that can be used in place of or as an adjunct to medication. Keep the gel pack in the freezer. At the first signs of a headache put it in a tea towel and wrap it around your neck. About 70% of headache sufferers will experience some relief with the use of gel packs. If your headache gets worse after applying the pack, it is possible that the cold pack may be aggravating a trigger point.


Some people find that heat is better than cold at relieving headaches. Most gel packs can also be heated. They are generally safer and more effective than heating pads because they mold nicely to the shape of our neck and are less likely to cause burns. A hot bath or hot shower may even be better. Headaches caused by trigger points generally respond well to heat, whereas migraine headaches may be aggravated. Exercise. Regular exercise helps relieve stress and tension and thus can be an excellent way to prevent headaches. Neck, back, and shoulder stretches also help relieve tension and are essential for trigger point headaches. Ask your massage therapist for stretches that are appropriate for you.

Improved posture.

Sitting improperly, at a computer terminal for instance can create tension in the muscles and trigger a headache. Slouching is particularly problematic as it prevents you from breathing normally and shortens the muscles in the back of your neck.

Get to the cause.

A headache may be your body’s way of telling you that there is some underlying stressful problem in your life: a troubled relationship, an unfulfilling job, or an upcoming exam. Your headaches may go away only after these stressful situations are resolved.


This is one of our favourites simply because we know it works so well. Many people think that massage provides only short-term relief. However, research shows that not only is massage effective at eliminating headaches, but the relief can last for months. Part of the effectiveness lies in the elimination of trigger points. As well, regular massage can actually retrain your nervous system to decrease the tension in your muscles on a more permanent basis.

If you have specific health concerns consult your medical doctor. The information in this newsletter is educational only and is not intended to replace the advice of your personal health care providers.


Provided by New West Wellness Centre.
Michelle Kegaly RMT

Find your energy and make it work for you

If there is one thing most people agree on, it’s the they need more energy. While the “afternoon slump” is experienced by almost everyone from time to time and is perfectly natural, ongoing fatigue is never OK and needs a little investigation.

Most times, a low energy level fatigue is the result of a lifestyle habit that can be easily addressed with few changes to routine. On occasion, however, it may be related to a medical condition and should be discussed with your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Let’s take a look at the most common reasons for a lack of energy and what you can do to correct them.

Improve your sleep

It may seem obvious, but lack of quality sleep, or not enough hours spent sleeping, can make you feel groggy and miserable the following day, Ongoing poor sleep can spell a similarly ongoing lack of energy.

If you are feeling less energetic than you would like, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I getting seven to eight hours of sleep most nights?
  • Do I toss and turn and/or wake up several times and not be easily able to drift off again?
  • Do I wake up feeling refreshed, or wishing I could sleep longer?

What you can do

Stick to a bedtime routine including a set time for sleep. Make sure you don’t vary it at weekends. You need to train your body and mind to know their time for rest.

Eliminate all light sources from your bedroom. This includes lights from electronics such as digital clocks and monitors, street lighting, nightlight, etc. Invest in blackout drapes or wear a sleep mask such as the London Premiere Sleep Shade available in store or online. Lack of light promotes the continuous release of melatonin-the sleep hormone.

Don’t use your tablet or laptop in bed. The backlight from the screen has shown to disrupt sleep patterns. If you wish to read digitally, use an e-book reader without a backlit screen.

Make sure that pre-sleep activities are not stimulating to the mind. It is better to read something soothing, or listen to peaceful music, than do a crossword or watch TV.

Reduce caffeine-laden drinks in the afternoon. These include coffee, tea, chocolate/cocoa and many colas. Chocolate bars also contain caffeine so watch these as well…which brings us to the next topic.

Reduce sugar intake

Elevated sugar level (spikes) can lead to sudden drops that make you feel drowsy. he drop that occurs after lunch is an example-leading to afternoon slump.

What you can do

While candies, cakes and cookies are obvious culprits, refined carbohydrates like fruit juices, white bread, bagels, rice, and potatoes all contain or are converted to simple sugars in the body. Since they are digested quickly, they lead to a spike and then a dip in blood sugar levels that leaves you feeling fatigued.

Replacing refined carbs with whole grain varieties and juices for whole fruits will help keep sugar levels steady, and you feeling more energized. Adding protein will also slow the emptying of your stomach and associated spiking of blood sugar.

Move more

Physical activity creates energy, so  sitting at a desk for hours is a sure-fire way to feeling bushed. Movement causes nitric oxide to be release from the linings of your arteries, allowing blood to flow better through your blood vessels. As a result, you cells receive more nutrients to elevate your energy levels.

What you can do

Heed the advice of experts and set an alarm to alert you every half hour of the need to stand up and move about. You don’t have to jog around the office, a simple walk for a couple of minutes is enough for your body to move heart-threatening fats out of your blood stream. Stretching your hip flexor muscles is also a good idea as these tend to shorten when you are seated for a long time, causing backache, aching hips and sore knees. (Trey holding the back of your chair and raising one knee to the chest and then the other, then do a couple of lunges.)

Avoid dehydration

Allowing yourself to become dehydrated is a major cause of lethargy. Our cells depend on water as part of the process of energy creation. Even mid dehydration can cause low energy.

What you can do

Fill a 2-litre bottle with good old water, and make sure you get through it during the day (this approximates eight glasses of water). Don’t allow yourself to become thirsty as this is a sign dehydration has already taken place. You will need more water on hot days or if working out. Remember, if your urine is yellow, you need to rehydrated fast.

Don’t skip breakfast

Despite knowing better, many people still skip breakfast, either because they don’t have time for it, or because an early morning cup of coffee kills their appetite. More common is the simple carbohydrate-laden breakfast, such as toasted bagel with jam or honey, sugary coffee, and fruit juice. Many people assume that a Danish is also a reasonable choice for breakfast, since all those calories will be worked off later in the day. Rather than use up calories, the result is a spike, then fall, in blood sugar and an associated desire to eat more carbs.

What you can do

Morning schedules can be hectic, especially if you are a working parent with children to organize. Even if you can’t afford the time to sit down and eat, you can make sure your breakfast is both convenient and well balanced by grabbing an energy bar. (London Drugs carries a wide variety of bars, so be sure to check them out.)

If you can find time for a sit-down breakfast, consider a whole grain bagel or toast with peanut or almond butter for protein and healthy fats. These will help prevent an energy slump a short while later.

Be aware of your metabolism

Knowing your basic metabolic rate (BMR) and how your food intake and calorie expenditure affect it can help you stay healthy and energized.

Consider attending a London Drugs Nutrition & Healthy Weight clinic (dates and locations on the next two pages) to determine your BMR and what you can do to make the healthy changes that can leas to increased energy.

“Find Your Energy and Make It Work for You.” Better Care Healthy Lifestyles
Volume XXI No. 1 | Winter-Spring 2016

PainSci summary of Kong 2009

When shoes wear out, the biomechanics of running do change. Just not much. Kong et al tested 24 runners before and after 200 miles of road-running in the same pair of shoes. There were a few minor changes: longer stance phase, less forward leaning, and less ankle flexion. However, hip and knee angles were unchanged.

[Update: several runner-readers have commented that 200 miles is not much, and they would hope that shoe wear would not have significant effects on the biomechanics of running until at least 300 or 400 miles. It’s possible that the relatively small number of miles is a bit of a deal-breaker for this study. ~ Paul 2016-02-16]

It’s significant that the effects on gait were generally minor, of course, but note the lack of difference in knee angles particularly. Knees are the site of two of the most common runner’s knee injuries, both iliotibial band and patellofemoral syndrome. In general, forces and injury risks increase together with more movement — more bending puts more torque on joints. A deeper knee bend is more stressful than a shallower knee bend. If worn out shoes have no effect on how far knees bend as you run, they aren’t much cause for concern. Although there are surely other biomechanical factors involved in these injuries, it’s unlikely that they are affected much by the condition of your shoes, and it’s reassuring that the most significant factor in overall knee stress — degree of flexion — is probably entirely unaffected.

Also interesting: they also compared kinds of shoes — air, gel, spring — and concluded “the adaptation strategies to shoe degradation were unaffected by different cushioning technologies.” So it makes no difference what kind of common cushioning method you have in your shoes — they all degrade and affect running about equally. A natural enemy of the salesman is science proving that there is no difference between products!

Nevertheless, the precautionary principle applies, and I do still recommend replacing your shoes when they begin to show obvious signs of wear. The risk of running in decrepit shoes may be small, but there’s not much reason to take that risk — just the modest cost of buying shoes somewhat more often. It’s not like you weren’t going to buy new shoes eventually! On the other hand, this data makes it pretty clear that replacing shoes while they still look fine isn’t really going to make much of a difference.

~ Paul Ingraham
Kong PW, Candelaria NG, Smith DR. Running in new and worn shoes: a comparison of three types of cushioning footwear. Br J Sports Med. 2009 Oct;43(10):745–9. PubMed #18801775.
“Worn out Shoes Do Change the Biomechanics of Running, but Not Much.” PainSciencecom RSS. April 7, 2016. Accessed March 28, 2016.