Being a massage therapist is more than just treating the issue at hand. You may think we are just being chatty if we ask you a few questions, but really we are trying to understand the bigger picture of your lifestyle and what can be causing your pain or tension. Here are a few everyday activities that can make a big impact on pain and posture.
1. Chewing Gum
While gum chewing isn’t a health threatening habit to have, over time it can make an impact on the muscles around our mouth. Our bodies weren’t designed to be chewing for hours at a time, so when you chew gum it is possible to overwork the jaw and surrounding muscles in the neck and head. I encourage my clients to be mindful of the time they spend chewing, and make a note if they are getting tension headaches related to chewing (especially during stressful times). Why not take a “gum detox” and just see what happens?
2. The Handbag
Handbag, or shoulder bag as it usually ends up being, is a main cause for shoulder and neck pain. Your body works really hard to keep you balanced when you are carrying 5kgs on one side, and has to make changes to the alignment of the spine to keep you centred. Many of my clients will take a purse, laptop bag and gym back to work and come in with shoulder pain every single month. While it might not look super trendy, a backpack with a chest/stomach support strap (this is very important!) is very effective in distributing the weight and reducing back and shoulder pain.
3. Your Pillow
When was the last time you changed your pillow? Do you love your pillow?
We spend 5+ hours a night attached to it, so it had better be treating us well! The main rule of thumb when purchasing a pillow is that you should feel comfortable on it. This especially applies to density. As for shape of the pillow, a higher pillow will be better for side sleepers (so your neck isn’t angled to the side), medium for back sleepers (ideal sleeping position, ideal posture), and low for stomach sleepers. If you are a stomach sleeper and are experiencing regular neck pain, there is a good chance your sleeping “posture” is contributing to that pain. It’s a hard habit to break, but I would encourage you to try sleeping on your back if possible (even for a couple hours at the beginning of your sleep cycle).
We stock several types of pillows at the clinic – check them our next time you’re in and we can answer any questions you might have.
4. Grinding of Teeth
Some people have a subconscious habit of grinding or clenching their teeth when they are stressed, or when they sleep. Solutions can be discussed with your dentist, but something as simple as a bite plate worn at night can reduce jaw tension, pressure on fascial muscles and prevent damage to teeth. If you are a regular “clencher”, perhaps at work or when you are doing sport, both massage therapists and chiropractors can help to relieve tension in the face by performing soft tissue work to the affected muscles.
While the list isn’t extensive, these common actions and habits can go undiscussed for years at a time and end up contributing to huge amounts of tension build up in the neck and head. A simple change can create a world of difference, so if you are curious about making any of the changes suggested here, just try it out for a week and see how you feel.