Understanding movement and functional anatomy will give you a greater insight into how to address issues related to repeated injury, neurological dysfunction, inefficient motor control, lack of coordination, and overall weakness.  The gift of exercise also has the added value of getting the client actively involved in the healing process.

It’s important to figure out which form of exercise is appropriate for the client at the present moment, and which may be appropriate as the person gets stronger.  If an exercise is too easy, the client will be bored and not progress.  If an exercise is too hard, they will get discouraged and quit.  Think of Goldilocks–only if program is just right for a client will they overcome the initial challenges and take to the program.

The integration of massage and exercise is important for the long-term health of our clients.

Ben Benjamin, PhD

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Our Work as massage therapists helps millions of people.  By integrating exercise into their treatment plans, we can take their healing an important step further.  All exercise programs should start with a thorough assessment.

There are two types of assessments that are important to getting your client well and keeping them that way.  The first is an injury assessment, which we have discussed many times in this column.  The second is a movement or exercise assessment–and here is where we move into new territory.  Very few massage therapists are skilled at assessing movement and prescribing exercise.  This is unfortunate because movement assessments can provide valuable information about why your client was injured by identifying predisposing factors.

Clients are often in pain because of an underlying weakness, instability, lack of mobility, and a poor understanding of how to move properly.  For example, lets say a client is experiencing lower back pain.  Normally, a massage therapist would perform soft tissue work around the hips, lower back, and perhaps the psoas muscle and then sent the client on their way.  A few days may go by with minimal pain until suddenly the person begins to feel the same symptoms that initially let them to seek treatment. 

In contrast, if the therapist had the ability to perform an exercise assessment, they could design a specific mobilization and stretching program (based on a range-of-motion assessment), teach the client how to execute a proper bend, squat, and/or lunge pattern, then teach them how to condition their body to support the demands of their work and/or sport environment.

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If you’re like most of us, you were taught the importance of warm-up exercises back in grade school, and you’ve likely continued with pretty much the same routine ever since. Science, however, has moved on. Researchers now believe that some of the more entrenched elements of many athletes’ warm-up regimens are not only a waste of time but actually bad for you. The old presumption that holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds – known as static stretching – primes muscles for a workout is dead wrong. It actually weakens them.

In a recent study conducted at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all. Other studies have found that this stretching decreases muscle strength by as much as 30 percent. Also, stretching one leg’s muscles can reduce strength in the other leg as well, probably because the central nervous system rebels against the movements.

Controversy remains about the extent to which dynamic warm-ups prevent injury. But studies have been increasingly clear that static stretching alone before exercise does little or nothing to help. The largest study has been done on military recruits; results showed that an almost equal number of subjects developed lower-limb injuries (shin splints, stress fractures, etc.), regardless of whether they had performed static stretches before training sessions.

A major study published earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control, on the other hand, found that knee injuries were cut nearly in half among female collegiate soccer players who followed a warm-up program that included both dynamic warm-up exercises and static stretching. (For a sample routine, visit www.aclprevent.com/pepprogram.htm.) And in golf, new research by Andrea Fradkin, an assistant professor of exercise science at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, suggests that those who warm up are nine times less likely to be injured.


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Simple gestures, like opening a door for someone or allowing a fellow motorist in front of your vehicle, can reap great internal rewards, according to research. In two separate studies involving nearly 300 people, Japanese researchers correlated acts of kindness by study participants with feelings of happiness.  The more frequently the kindness to others, the more the participants reported their a significant increase in their own feelings of emotional well-being.
– from The Doctors’ 5-Minute Health Fixes: The Prescription for a Lifetime of Great Health, (Rodale Books)

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