7:33 the bubble visualisation (also a bit more ‘woo’)
Use These Audio Visualisations to Manage the MANY Effects of Stress
It is SO important to manage stress levels.
Stress has been shown:
to suppress our immune response (and we NEED our immune response),
negatively affect our ability to think/process,
make our digestion worse, and
even affect our sleep, skin, and stomach fat.
We have been using these visualisations to help our clients finish sessions relaxed for years, and now we’re making them available as pay-what-you-can so you can get additional support during this incredibly difficult time.
These visualisations will help you:
relax tense muscles (the upper and lower body relaxation visualisations)
bring your deep breath back and relax you to help you get a good night’s sleep(breathing visualisation)
relax specific muscles that are getting tight from day to day overuse (general & targeted body relaxation)
re-energise you (energising visualisation)
create a bubble around you to help protect your energy during the day (bubble visualisation)
They are pay-what-you-can so they’re accessible to EVERYONE, regardless of income.
The minimum is £1, and we recommend £5 (but it’s fine to pay less). Of course, if you would like to help us support our therapists at this time and are able to pay me, we are extremely grateful.
You can purchase the full bundle below (all current & future visualisations) or choose the one that sounds most like what you need right now.
Breathing Visualisation: (woo level: 2)
When we’re stressed we regularly breathe into our chest – like, up into our chest with our neck muscles.
This visualisation helps you switch to diaphragmatic breathing. Deepening your breath stimulates the vagus nerve, essential for your body’s function.
It stimulates your relaxation response, important to your immune response and your ability to think, while making it easier to take deep breaths and getting oxygen throughout your body.
After our clients use this breathing visualisation, they report feeling that it was easier to breathe, feeling more relaxed, and feeling more space in their neck and their shoulders.
“I wasn’t sure how much difference it would make, but after listening to the visualisation just once I felt like it was easier to breathe and that I had more space in my chest and my neck and shoulders felt relaxed”
Energising Visualisation: (Woo level: 7)
If you’re anything like me, you’re running around taking care of EVERYONE but yourself.
If you’re not careful, this will leave you feeling defeated and drained at the end of the day.
With our energising visualisation, you’ll fill your cells with a golden energy that nourishes and revives any part of you that feels worn out or depleted.
This is perfect for before bed or if you need a time out in the middle of your day to gather your energy to get back up and keep going.
Bubble Visualisation: (Woo level: 7)
You don’t have to be an HSP to be picking up the anxiety/stress/panic of the world.
If you are an empath/sensitive the frantic energy around us can easily get to be too much – or we forget to protect our energy.
This protective bubble visualisation allows you to create and/or reinforce your energetic bubble to help you separate your own worry with the worry from the rest of the world.
When we’re protecting our energy we’re better able to show up and help people around us.
This is a great visualisation to do at the beginning of your day as part of your morning ritual.
Upper body relaxing visualisation
Lower body relaxing visualisation
Whole body/specific issue relaxing visualisation
All Visualisations Bundle:
You can also purchase access to all our visualisations.
If you know anyone who might find these stress-relieving, relaxation-inducing visualisations helpful, we’d be so grateful if you shared this page on your social media, with your friends, family, anyone who might find these useful.
You can click on individual visualisations to purchase, or you can purchase all our visualisations as a bundle (recommended rate for the bundle is £20).
Thank you so much for your support during this time, and we hope that these visualisations help you stay calm as much as possible.
Picture this: you’re typing furiously at your computer, working on an important deadline.
You glance down at the clock and realise you have less than an hour to finish this and get it out.
As you type, a familiar distraction starts to creep in.
‘Oh no, not now’ you think.
It starts between your shoulder blades, like a dull ache, and moves up to a tired feeling in your shoulders. The last thing you need right now is your neck and shoulder pain to kick in.
You try to adjust your posture, to sit up straight by pulling your shoulder blades together, but it’s no use. Within five minutes you’re slouching again, and you can feel the stiffness moving up to your neck.
You rub your neck, roll your shoulders, and tilt your head while dropping your shoulder to stretch.
For 30 seconds. And then it’s back to annoy (and distract) you, again.
If you’d like to watch Why You Get Neck & Shoulder Pain from Working at a Desk / Computer, vs continue reading the next section, here’s a slightly different version from our YouTube channel:
If this scenario sounds familiar to you, you’re one of the many, many, many desk-bound people who suffer with neck and shoulder pain.
Call it what you will: a pain, an ache, a feeling of tiredness, an annoyance.
At best, it’s a slight irritation, distracting you from your work during the day. At worst, you could wake up with a neck spasm and not be able to turn your head (and believe me, I’ve seen that walk into the clinic a number of times).
Around 30% of the complaints we see are neck/shoulder/desk-related. Most of the time, when someone walks in to see us those aches and pains have come and gone quite a few times. They’ve finally been forced to come in because this time it’s not going away. It’s affecting their work, and sometimes even their sleep, and they want to finally do something about it.
But why? Why do so many people get neck and shoulder pain while working at a desk?
If you’re already one of our clients, you know we’re big on client education. I believe you can’t really fix a problem if you don’t have at least some understanding of where it’s coming from.
By the time you finish reading this, you’ll have a better understanding of a lot of the common mechanisms behind your discomfort, and therefore be better equipped to deal with it. When you understand why something’s happening, it’s much easier to understand what to do about it and how to address it.
Once you’ve read the post, if you’d like some tips on how to start addressing your neck and shoulder pain, we have a free 3-step downloadable guide to help you get started.
What causes neck and shoulder pain at a desk?
If you do a quick google search on the causes of neck and shoulder pain, you’ll see the same thing ‘poor posture,’ ‘poor posture at a desk’, ‘muscle tension caused by poor posture’.
Okay. Neck and shoulder pain is caused by neck and shoulder tension and poor posture.
But why does poor posture cause neck and shoulder pain? What’s the process from Point A: Poor Posture to Point B: Neck and Shoulder Pain?
And if good posture is so essential, why is it so hard to have good posture all the time?
And why does poor posture create muscle tension?
And why does it sometimes go away when you haven’t really done anything to address it, and why does it then come back again?
I’ve been working with neck and shoulder pain for about eight years. To my knowledge, the questions I just asked don’t have a sound evidence-base (which means, double-blinded clinical trials) explanation. However, through working with hundreds of clients, myself and other massage therapists/bodyworkers rely on certain hypotheses to guide our work, which I’ll share with you today. The concepts that follow are mainly based on my own clinical experience, what helps and what doesn’t, and general working concepts in the field of soft tissue therapy.
First, let’s talk about posture.
Yes, it’s true, the number one cause for neck and shoulder pain from desk-work is poor posture.
This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you. Most of the people who come to see me are aware that their posture is at least one of the factors in their discomfort.
If you imagine that our body is a structure of bones being held in place by muscle (which, on one level, is true), you can understand that there would be an ideal position for that structure to be in balance. In this ideal position, no one muscle or groups of muscles are overworking.
It may feel like good posture is more work for your muscles than slouching.
When we slouch, though, all sorts of muscles start to contract to try and stop us from moving further away from ideal alignment.
It’s a subconscious thing – you don’t have to consciously remember to stop yourself from falling onto your keyboard. Your muscles do it naturally. Every day that you’re at a desk, slightly hunched forward, muscles in your upper back and tops of the shoulder/back of the neck contract very gently to prevent you from falling further forward.
Why does poor posture cause neck and shoulder pain?
The four-word answer (or three – do hyphens count?): muscle tension build-up.
As you sit in this non-ideal posture over days, and weeks, and months, and years, the muscles very slowly, and on a day-to-day basis, imperceptibly get tighter and tighter.
One day of poor posture is unlikely to create neck and shoulder pain. Years of it probably will.
You won’t notice the tension build-up at first, because it’s in really small degrees and your body adapts. Our brain can only pay attention to so many things at once, and the muscle tension at first won’t be enough to get your brain’s attention.
You’ll unconsciously start to twist your upper body instead of your neck to look behind you, or change the way that you put on your coat to avoid raising your arm to the point of restriction.
Try it now: can you turn your head all the way to the right or left, without moving your shoulders?
The tension in the muscles eventually builds up to a point where it starts to cause pain (or, in some cases, tension headaches). That line is different for different people – I’ve seen people with very little tension, or only one or two knots in the muscles in a lot of pain, and others who to my hands feel like they’ve been solid for years and only just started to notice some discomfort, and everything in between.
Why is it so hard to have good posture?
When you’re first developing, you naturally have good posture (look how straight 2-years old sit up when they’re playing).
At some point, you start to slouch naturally. Maybe as a teenager?
Muscles change over time, depending on the input.
You probably already know this with weights or exercise. You start at Point A and in a few weeks you get stronger, or build endurance, or things become easier. This is because your muscles are changing with the input you’re providing.
Guess what sitting at your desk in an imbalanced position is?
That’s right! Input.
All Your Imbalances
When you slouch at a desk the muscles in the front of your chest and shoulders are in a shortened position, and over time those muscles will actually become shorter and tighter.
The muscles in your back that would usually be used to keep you upright get weaker.
So, by the time you realise you’ve built up some tension/pain in your upper body you have some muscles short and tight pulling you forward and the other muscles that should keep you up are too weak to pull against them.
That’s why, by the time you notice you have neck and shoulder pain, it’s so hard to make the switch back to good posture.
Why does it come and go?
This is really common. I ask ‘how long have you had it’ and the client says ‘about a week’.
Then I say ‘and have you had this before?’ and they say ‘oh, yeah, it’s come and gone before’.
‘When did you first feel it?’
‘About three years ago’.
Hate to break it to you, but that’s how long you’ve had it.
There are a few possible reasons why the aches and pains from desk sitting come and go.
Your Tension Goes Slightly Up and Down
The main one is that you will invariably do some things that make your muscle tension slightly better and slightly worse, so it will go over the threshold where you start to feel it, then drop back down, only to come up again when you do things that will tighten it again.
Like stressing out at your desk over a deadline (making the tension slightly worse). And then working out or having a brisk walk (movement loosens up muscles).
Your Brain’s Attention
The other factor is your brain can only pay attention to about 2-3 things at a time.
Sometimes the tension/restriction/pain will be in the top three.
Other times, it won’t.
Until, of course, it gets so tight that it just stays above the threshold and puts itself permanently in the top 3 until you do something about it.
(Just wait until it feels better after you book your massage appointment – not had your massage yet. Just booked it).
Now for the re-cap:
Neck and shoulder pain is usually caused by tension in the back and the top of the shoulders*.
This tension has usually been building up for a long time but hasn’t been perceived because it wasn’t bad enough.
The tension in those muscles is created by chronic imbalanced use, almost always from poor posture.
Typical chronic poor posture creates short, tight muscles in the front of the body, long, tight muscles in some shoulder and neck muscles compensating for the imbalance, and some postural muscles become weak from underuse. This makes it hard for you to switch permanently to ‘good’ posture immediately.
What You Can Do
Now that you understand this, you can relax knowing that it takes a while to fix, because it took a while to build up.
Many of my clients get frustrated because they try to fix themselves for a week, and keep getting pulled into bad posture and chronic tension, stiffness, or pain.
You can definitely help your desk-related neck and shoulder pain, but you’ll need to be patient and give your body an amount of time that’s proportionate to how long it’s taken to build up.
If it’s taken years to get there, it won’t take years to get rid of, but it may take a few weeks, or a few months.
How long it takes also depends on how consistently you work on rebalancing your upper body and improving your posture, and how much external help you get (like, with specialised massage therapy, osteopathy, physio, or Pilates or yoga).
If you’d like to get started on improving your posture right now, why not enrol in our free 7-day neck & shoulder pain minicourse? When you enrol, you’ll also receive some tips or further training on desk-related neck and shoulder pain.
Now I’d love to hear from you in the comments below: does this explanation make you feel like you understand your neck and shoulder pain a little better? Are there any other questions related to its cause that have come up, or you don’t see here?
If you have any questions related to the cause of your neck and shoulder pain, leave them below and I’ll work on adding them to this post.
*Not all neck and shoulder pain is created by muscle tension. While it is by far the most common cause of neck and shoulder pain I see, if you are having any aches or pains that you’re worrying about, you should consult a healthcare practitioner so they can assess/diagnose your specific case, in case your pain is caused by something more serious. This article is intended for educational purposes only, and shouldn’t be taken as personalised medical advice or diagnosis.
Training for a marathon can seem quite overwhelming.
Not just because of the distance (although, running 26 miles in a row can be quite daunting).
It’s also because of the million different things (well, it seems like a million) that you’re supposed to do and/or know as part of your training.
There’s interval runs, tempo runs, long runs… and that’s just for the running. And there’s stretching. And foam rolling. And conditioning. And don’t forget about nutrition, or you will DEFINITELY be hitting the wall…
How are you supposed to fit all that in around, you know, a life, and a job, and possibly a family or partner or friends?
This new year, as your mind turns from Christmas to prepping for whatever marathon you’ll be running, we thought we’d create a helpful (and free!) little series that gives you the basics in quite manageable chunks.
Each week we’ll look at a different aspect of marathon training, why it’s important for successful marathon training, and an action step for you.
This post is a big picture overview, with a summary of each of the main points. Then each upcoming post will go into more detail on one of these important points.
We’ll finish with one action you can apply to your training now.
If you’d like to watch the complete compressed guide to marathon training, vs read the next section, here’s a slightly different version from our YouTube channel:
Marathon Training – The Big Picture
At risk of stating the obvious, the point of marathon training is to prepare your body for running a marathon.
While it is obvious, it’s easy to forget that it’s a cumulative change that happens over time. Your body changes as it responds to whatever stimulus you provide it.
That’s why consistency is so important in marathon training. Each time you run, or train, or refuel, you’re one step closer to a body that will get you through your marathon; hopefully without hitting the wall or seriously injuring yourself.
It’s not a case of run, run, run, run, run (this is what Michel Glendinning, who helped me write the 3m2m guide series, calls ‘junk miles’).
It’s a case of doing the right things at the right time, with the right rest, so your body can increase its VO2 max, lactate threshold, aerobic endurance, and running efficiency and economy and become a lean, mean, running machine.
That said, here’s what you need to consistently be doing…
The Running: 3 Times a Week
Your runs every week should include one interval, one tempo, and one long run.
The interval runs improve the oxygen delivery to your muscles.
The tempo runs increase your lactate threshold so you can burn a higher proportion of fat at higher intensities.
The long run improves your aerobic and physical endurance.
Pacing is super important for all three of these runs. If you’re not running at the right speed and/or intensity, you aren’t working in the right zone or developing the right physical capacity.
To be able to work hard during these sessions, you have to rest between them, so you can go all-out when you do run.
You wouldn’t go hard on weights on the same muscles two days in a row. The same logic applies to running.
If your brain is screaming at the idea of not running six days a week, you may want to look at cross-training.
Cross-training is a great way to improve your cardiovascular capacity while you’re trying to give your muscles and joints a break from running wear-and-tear. It’s especially recommended if you’re trying to improve a previous marathon time.
If this is your first marathon, though, cross-training is totally optional. You may feel it’s more important for you to rest, and if that’s the case, listen to your body.
Cross-training usually involves interval or tempo-paced sessions on an elliptical, rower, or bike.
If you want to save time, you can pair cross-training with conditioning, which brings us to…
Conditioning: The Unsung Hero
Conditioning is almost more ignored than stretching by our marathon clients, but it is so important!
Conditioning helps you run as efficiently and economically as possible and gives you more power in your run, for less effort.
It can seem complicated and time-consuming to add yet another thing to your training, especially if you have no experience with weight or resistance training or if you hate gyms.
BUT – would it surprise you to learn you could get the benefits of resistance training in as little as 2 x 20 minute sessions per week?
Even if you hadn’t considered including conditioning before, I challenge you to find 2 x 20 minute slots a week to do some strength training – you’ll be surprised at the benefits.
We’ll be talking about what to include in your resistance sessions in a future post, and we also have a full routine (with variations to avoid boredom) in our 3m2m Conditioning Guide.
Stretching & Foam Rolling
There’s a lot of confusion around stretching.
Stretching, as in dynamic stretching, as in, an active warm-up, is extremely important to help prevent injury and get your muscles firing correctly before a training session.
Static stretching and foam rolling, on the other hand, do not belong in a warm-up. They should be completed after your training. They help with muscle soreness and tension that can slow you down in future runs.
When you’re scheduling your training, include time to stretch and/or foam roll the main muscles you’ve been working afterwards, or plan to do a bit before bed each evening.
Here’s where massage therapy can be a good tool in your recovery and/or training process. A good sports massage therapist will not only help to release any overly-tight muscles, he/she will also be able to give you an overview of where you may be over-working or under-recruiting. This information will help you train more effectively and help you know what to focus on at home.
Another oft-overlooked but very, very important piece of the training puzzle is nutrition.
How much do you think about your nutrition around running?
You may not have thought much about nutrition if you’ve been a regular runner up to this point. If you’re about to embark on marathon training, however, it’s something you should probably consider.
Whether or not you replenish your carbs and have enough protein and nutrients will make a huge difference to your endurance while you’re running, your energy levels in the days after your runs (especially after your long run) and your body’s ability to repair.
What you eat will literally be the difference between enjoying your marathon training and suffering your way through, dragging your unwilling body through your training runs.
In Summary – Your Checklist
Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?
On the one hand, for many people it may be more thought than they’ve had to put into running before.
On the other, now you have a handy checklist of training elements – it’s just a matter of scheduling them in.
Here’s your checklist:
Interval Run (1/week)
Tempo Run (1/week)
Long Run (1/week)
Conditioning (2/week, 20-30 min each)
Nutrition (try to plan your nutrition in a way that maximises your body’s natural replenishment cycle)
Stretching/Foam Rolling/Massage/Recovery – after training
Your Action Item
Now that you know what you should be including, schedule it into your life.
Sit down and look at your marathon training for the next 3-4 months (or however long you have left).
Schedule time for your runs (with a warm-up before and stretching time after) and conditioning.
Make a list of a few snacks you can have on hand after you train to replenish after a session.
By scheduling these into your life, you’re less likely to miss them and realise you’ve had a whole week without, say, an interval or conditioning session.
Coming up… in the next post we’ll talk about conditioning, why it’s so important, and what you should include in your conditioning routine to get the most benefit.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was some way to prolong the effects of your massages?
There is! Workshops at Leyton Sports Massage.
Self care exercises like stretching, muscle activation, posture adjustments and foam rolling improve muscle function, make your training more effective and decrease your chances of having long term aches and pains.
But… how do you know if you’re doing it right?
Doing squats without activating your glutes can lead to serious hamstring, quad, and lower back pain.
You can find thousands of videos on YouTube about foam rolling – 99% of which make it look like you should be torturing your muscles (seriously? can that be right?).
If you’re not sure about your desk posture or you’re a runner who’d like to be certain they’re stretching a) correctly and b) the right muscles, we have some workshops for you.
These workshops are a great way to get help in your self-care routine at a fraction of the cost of a full session with us.
Note on pricing: you’ll notice we have a small number of community tickets for each workshop. It’s on an honour system – please see the end of this post for details if you’d like to purchase a community ticket.
(Scroll down for details of each workshop & to reserve your slot)
Stretching for Runners Workshop: Sunday, 26 January 2020, 14:30-16:00
Glute Activation Workshop: Sunday, 16 February 2020, 14:30 – 16:00
Plantar Fasciitis Workshop: Sunday, 8 March 2020, 14:30 – 16:00
Workshop for Deskworkers with Neck & Shoulder Pain: 1 April 2020, 6:30-8 @ St James St/Walthamstow
Scroll down to get details & pricing for each workshop, and go to the bottom to see the special bundle offers we have for the workshops.
Stretching for Runners Workshop: 26 January 2020, 14:30-16:00
Where: Leyton Fitness First Studio
Do you know the common mistakes runners make when stretching?
They stretch TOO HARD, which can actually make muscles tighter, and
They stretch the wrong muscles and forget other really important ones.
In this workshop you’ll learn:
how stretching correctly can make your running less energy-intensive
how stretching can improve your form as a runner
which muscles to stretch (and why)
why certain muscles get tighter when you run & what to do about it
which muscles you, specifically, should be focusing on based on your own posture
As an attendee you’ll get a worksheet with key points where you can make notes about the stretches/positions that are best for your body, for future reference.
This is the only stretching for runners workshop we’re doing this year, so if you’d like to join click below to purchase your ticket and reserve your slot – limited number available.
Cost: £20 or bring a friend and get two tickets for £30
Cost: £20 per person or two for £30 (limited slots available)
Want to join more than one workshop? See bundle deal at bottom of page.
**Please note glute activation issues are not the only cause for these symptoms and we are not diagnosing any problems during a session. These are just a sample of symptoms we have seen improve following incorporating glute activation exercises in our clients’ routines.
Plantar Fasciitis Workshop: 8 March 2020, 14:30 – 16:00
Location: Leyton Mills Fitness First Studio
Plantar fasciitis has plagued runners for ages, and many people think it’s just something you have to live with.
At the clinic, we’ve successfully helped many, many people with plantar fasciitis.
In this workshop, I’ll be sharing my plantar fasciitis protocol, what appear to be common causes of it, and the stretches, foam rolling, and exercises you can do to get rid of it & keep it away.
If you have plantar fasciitis, I strongly recommend you also come to the glute activation workshop, as one of the pillars of our plantar fasciitis process is glute activation.
Cost: £20 per person or two for £30 (limited slots available)
Want to join more than one workshop? See bundle deal at bottom of page.
Workshop for Desk Workers with Neck & Shoulder Pain:
When: 1 April 2020, 18:30-20:00
Where: CRATE St James Street
If you work at a desk and ever get frustrated wondering how the heck are you supposed to have good posture all day, this workshop is for you.
In this 90-minute workshop, you’ll learn:
exactly what good posture is (and how to easily sit in good posture at your desk)
my #1 stretch to make good posture easier & help neck & shoulder pain
a 10-second exercise to wake up your posture muscles
how to fit these exercises in your day to day with minimal effort
You’ll leave with a worksheet full of notes on how to sit better more easily, how you can do the stretch & exercise, and a plan to execute at work the next day.
This is the only neck & shoulder pain workshop we’re doing this side of 2020, so if you’d like to avoid the inevitable neck & shoulder stiffening that comes with the cold weather, we’d love to see you there.
Cost: £20 or bring a friend and get two tickets for £30 (limited spots available)
Want to join more than one workshop? See bundle deal at bottom of page.
Bundle: If you’d like to go to more than one workshop, you can purchase 2 at £35, 3 at £50, or do all 4 for £65. This would need to be purchased directly with us so we can update availability for your chosen workshops.
A couple important notes:
All workshop slots must be purchased before the workshop so we can plan for all attendees, get worksheets printed, etc.
Community (low cost) tickets:
We offer these workshops as lower cost offerings for individuals (£15 or £20 for 90 min, vs £100), and so you can be better equipped to take care of yourself in your day to day life.
However, as accessibility is important to us, we also have 6 community tickets available for each workshop offered at a lower price for those who may be struggling financially.
This is on an honour system. We ask that if you’re able to pay the full price you do, to leave the lower cost tickets for those who genuinely need it.
During the workshop, we won’t be making any distinction between those who bought regular tickets and those who bought community tickets.
Thank you so much for supporting us so we can continue to hold these workshops in future, and we look forward to seeing you there!
Have you ever had a problem that seems to come and go, eventually just not going away?
It’s a first appointment conversation we have all the time:
‘How long have you had your neck pain?’
‘I’d say it’s been about a week.’
‘Have you had it before at all?’
‘Oh yeah – it’s come and gone a few times over the past four years, but this time it just hasn’t gone away so I thought I should see someone about it.’
I hate to break it to you, my friend, but that’s a four-year-old neck pain.
Most people think if you have a pain, and you rest it and the pain goes away, that the problem has as well. Actually, if you haven’t gotten rid of the underlying tension, it doesn’t go just because the pain has.
If you’d like to watch why pain comes & goes – The Water Bucket Analogy, vs read the next section, here’s a slightly different version from our YouTube channel:
To help our clients understand why you can carry tension without feeling it, let me introduce the water bucket analogy:
The Water Bucket Analogy – A Way to Understand Tension and Pain
Imagine that your capacity to carry tension is a bucket, and water is the tension, filling up the bucket.
That bucket is pretty much always carrying some water.
Water is being put in and taken out at different rates depending on the day and activity.
Sometimes the water overflows the bucket and when it does, that’s when you feel the pain.
As soon as you’ve done something to reduce that water enough so it’s no longer overflowing, the pain will usually stop (even if it’s only a bit).
People have varying sizes of buckets – with a ‘big bucket,’ muscles get to virtual concrete before they notice any discomfort. This is the client who comes to me with a ‘little bit of lower back pain’, and I’m wondering how they’re able to move.
Other people have very small buckets. This is the client who comes in with excruciating pain, unable to turn his or her head, and all I can find is one, single knot at the top of the shoulder with very little other tension (this, by the way, is extremely rare – most people have larger vs smaller buckets).
When your bucket is near full, it only takes a small aggravator (a little extra stress at work, an extra mile in your run) to create a serious problem.
How You Fill Up Your Bucket
On a day to day basis, you’re likely net positive (i.e. you’re putting more water in than you’re taking out).
Long-hold muscle contraction also creates tension – sitting with your head forward forces your neck and shoulder muscles to contract to hold up the weight of your head, or lifting a shoulder that has a bag on it.
Small imbalances are like putting water in the bucket with a teaspoon or a dropper (think: a very slightly forward head position, a minor deficit in glute activation).
Big imbalances are like putting water in the bucket with a large cup or a jug (think: horrific mechanics when running).
Why You Don’t Feel the Bucket as It’s Filling Up
Muscle changes very slowly over time.
As you add a little tension, your body adjusts, finds a way to work around it, and you don’t feel the tension, at first.
In one way, this is helpful – you wouldn’t want to be debilitated every time you got a little extra muscle tension.
What’s not so helpful is this means you’re slowly building up tension over time, without noticing.
Then one day you do one extra activity or movement that tips it all over the edge, and your neck goes into spasm, your calf muscle tears, or you realise you can’t lift your arm over your head.
Taking/Keeping Water Out of the Bucket
This is where taking water out of the bucket comes into play.
Believe it or not, you’re already naturally taking at least some water out of the bucket every day.
Any movement will, at least minimally, release some muscle tension by warming up the muscle or stretching it slightly. If you find a specific ache or pain gets worse when you stop going to the gym/training regularly, that’s because the heat and movement of your workouts were taking a little water out of the bucket each time.
Stretching, if done correctly, will reduce muscle tension (stretching incorrectly, on the other hand, increases it).
Massage that actually reduces muscle tension takes water out of the bucket (vs a general and/or superficial relaxing massage that doesn’t change underlying muscle tension).
Resting represents a very small amount coming out of the bucket – this is why if you have a recurring pain, stopping the activity stops the pain, but only as long as you don’t start again. When you do, the pain comes right back, because you’re once again overflowing the bucket.
There’s also the important work of reducing how much water you’re putting in in the first place.
Addressing imbalances – like fixing your posture or strengthening muscles so you have good mechanics – reduces the amount of water you’re putting in the bucket, so it fills up more slowly. The more slowly you can fill up the bucket, the less you have to do on a day-to-day basis to take the water out.
How This Analogy Helps You
Our human default is that when we’re aware of a problem, we try to fix it.
For most of us, that’s when we feel a pain.
Once you understand that you pretty much always carry some tension, even if you don’t feel it, encourages you to change your habits to avoid problems – either decreasing the water you put in, or increasing how much you take out.
Not only will you avoid problems, but you may find you generally feel better.
Our clients who have regular maintenance massage report on average feeling lighter after a session, having a bit more energy, and sleeping better.
Of course massage isn’t the only option available for taking water out of the bucket.
You should choose an activity you enjoy, as you’ll be more likely to keep with it. In addition to massage, there’s regular stretching, yoga, Alexander technique, and Pilates to name a few.
Do you know what you do that’s filling your bucket up?
Do you have poor desk posture? Less-than-ideal running mechanics? A new baby that forces you into a weird position when holding it?
What can you do to either take water out of your bucket regularly? Or put it in more slowly?
Tell us in a comment below – your solution may help someone else reading.
Do you know someone who has a recurring muscle-related pain or ache? I would really appreciate if you shared this post with them, so they can start thinking about what they’d like to do to keep their water bucket level low.
*Important note: this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. While we find this is a useful way to explain a common reason for recurring muscle-related pains we see at the clinic, chronic pain can be related to a number of issues, including more serious underlying medical conditions. If you ever experience recurring pain, we strongly recommend you see a healthcare practitioner who can give you advice with regards to your individual situation.
Now, this can be a tricky one and you need to know yourself for this to work.
Common example: you want to exercise, so you sign up to a gym.
The fact that you’ll be paying that money every month guarantees that you’ll show up and use it.
Or does it?
Making a financial commitment only works if you care about losing that money.
In the gym example, if your gym costs £15/month you’re very likely going to think ‘eh, it’s only £15 – I feel like staying home more’.
BUT, if your gym is £75 / month you bet your sweet patootie you’ll be showing up three times a week… IF that’s an amount of money you don’t want to waste.
This is part of the thinking behind our recently-introduced membership offering at the clinic.
For our clients who DEFINITELY want a monthly massage as part of taking better care of themselves, signing up to have the fee for that monthly session come out automatically means they’ll make their appointment and stick with it.
Then, as a bonus the 12th month is free.
But it’s more about the act of committing your money to that session each month, to be sure they have their monthly session (because the money’s coming out regardless).
If you suffer with neck & shoulder pain, you know that winter is the perfect storm for making it worse.
Between the cold hunching up your shoulders, the wind whipping around your ears, and the general stressy time leading up to the holidays, is it a wonder that desk workers experience more pain when the weather gets colder?
We have some super easy, quick, and effective tips for you this winter to mitigate the effects of the cold weather.
If you’d like to watch 4 easy tips for Desk Workers, vs read the next section, here’s a slightly different version from our YouTube channel:
Tip 1: Wear a Scarf!
This is an oldie but goodie.
When the weather’s cold, you can’t help pulling your shoulders up round your ears to try and protect your neck from the icy air.
You guessed it – hunching your shoulders is an easy way to aggravate neck and shoulder pain.
Wearing a scarf around your neck makes it a lot easier to keep your shoulders down, to minimise the effects of ‘cold weather shoulder’.
Just make sure it covers your neck! It’s no good if you can still feel the cold sneaking in over the top or under the scarf you’re wearing.
Tip #2: Warm up Your Shoulders
Stiffness is the enemy of muscles (and muscle tension’s best friend).
When you have a spare 2-3 minutes in your day, sneak off to the toilet or the stairwell and do a few arm circles both directions.
Arm circles will warm up both your shoulder muscles AND your shoulder joints, decreasing muscle tension and improving your muscle pliability.
Try it for a week, and see how much easier it to have better posture (and how much less crunching you get in your joints).
Tip #3: Head Over Shoulders
Speaking of better posture, knowing exactly how to sit can feel like an exercise in contortion (especially if good posture is not your normal habit).
To get a good start on your posture, try this one tip:
Tuck your chin in (lengthening the back of your neck), so your head sits over the top of your shoulders vs forward of them.
A good way to think of it is if you dropped a coin off your chin (why anyone would do that, I have no idea, but go with me here), it should land on the top of your breastbone, vs your lap (or your slightly-larger-due-to-the-holiday-festivities tummy).
Keeping your head over your shoulders decreases the strain on your shoulder and neck muscles during the long, dark hours at your desk.
Tip #4: Deep Breaths
Did you know, when you’re stressed your muscles contract reflexively (that is, automatically without you even thinking about it)?
Deep breathing not only gets more oxygen to muscles (good for muscles) it also helps you release any tension you may not have realised you were holding.
Take 3 deep breaths, and on each out breath focus on letting go of the muscles in your neck and shoulders. Try to notice where you were holding tension that you could release.
Tip #5: Have a Desk Worker’s MOT
When it’s cold (and snowing!), and everyone’s busy with parties and deadlines, there is only so much you can do on your own.
A 60 or 90-min desk worker’s MOT will target any areas that you’re holding built up stress and release the muscle a lot more quickly than stretching alone.
We’ll also give you an idea of where you’re tight, and you’ll leave with an easy-to-fit in stretch, exercise, or posture adjustment to continue making headway on your own.
Want a desk worker’s MOT for Christmas? Put our desk worker MOT on your gift list and link to our shop page (and whoever buys it for you will get 20% off a session for themselves, plus a portion of proceeds will go to help the homeless this winter). Click here to check out our holiday shop.
If you’ve never had a massage or any reason to notice your butt muscles (aka glutes), you probably think about it………….. almost never.
If, on the other hand, you’ve been to see us for anything from the belly button down, you’ve probably started thinking about it a lot more than you ever thought you would.
Weak or underactive glutes are a common underlying cause of So. Many. Problems. (and yes, I willbe writing a post about why glute activation is so important, it is on the content calendar, and I will link it up when it’s ready.)
If you’d like to watch the 3 easy ways to activate the glutes in no extra time, vs read the next section, here’s a slightly different version from our YouTube channel:
Traditionally, when someone comes to us with a glute activation problem, we recommend a protocol that starts with a knee lift exercise to wake the glutes up, and graduates to squats/lunges/one-legged or Bulgarian split squats/ the frog/ the glute bridge/ and ET CETERA.
But I got to thinking.
Isn’t it kind of counterproductive to have our clients only thinking about their glutes, only, like once or twice a week? Or only when they’re training?
One of the biggest issues around glutes is that because we don’t use them in our day-to-day normal life, it’s much harder to get them to switch on when we exercise.
How about a simple 3-step shift in how you move in their day to day life, to encourage glutes to fire all throughout your day?
After trying it with my clients for the last 4-5 months, I thought it was time to share it with… everyone!
There are two benefits to this:
You can now be working on your glutes WITHOUT finding time for extra exercises (which gives you a good baseline – though you should still work on your glutes with strength training if you do any sort of physical activity – including cycling to work)
If you’re switching your glutes on throughout your day, it should make it much easier to get them to wake up when you then go for a long walk, climb on your bike, do your next weights session, or get ready for your next training run.
Are you ready to learn what these 3 techniques are?
I hope so, because I’m going to tell you.
Wake Your Glutes Up: Do Knee Lifts in the Morning
Out of everything I’m going to tell you to do, these are probably the most time intensive (all of, um, 30-60 seconds).
If you’ve been to us for anything glute-related, you’ve probably gotten this exercise – it’s our starter glute activator.
A quick reminder:
Stand with legs hip-width apart, arms’ length from the wall (with your hands on the wall for balance).
WITHOUT shifting your shoulder or hip away from the midline
Lift one knee up to as close as hip-level as possible (keeping your hips level) – to a count of about… 4 or 5.
Repeat 10 times before switching to the other side.
You should feel a very slight working feeling in the outside/back of the STANDING leg.
The glute in the standing leg should be contracting to stabilise your pelvis.
If you need help, you can put your hand on that standing glute to tell your brain ‘here, recruit this one’.
This IS the one that you kind of need to find time for.
Here are 3 easy ways to fit it in to your morning:
Do it while you brush your teeth.
Do it while you’re waiting for your toast to pop up or the kettle to boil.
Do it when you are waiting for anything for about 30-60 seconds.
Think of it like a wake up call to your brain, to “please use that particular muscle while we’re walking around today”.
Use Your Glutes to Stand Up & Sit Down
Most of us stand and sit quite a few times during the day.
Most of us also do weird things with our body so what’s getting us up and down are our quads (front of thigh muscles), hamstrings, lower back, and even shoulders. We do this because our glutes aren’t switched on and/or aren’t strong enough through years of unconscious avoidance.
Instead of mindlessly compensating for your neglected glutes, try this approach (all it requires is a bit of attention, any time you remember).
When you’re sitting down:
Try not to let your shoulders go too far forward – keep them in line with or slightly behind your knees.
As you lower, and bend your knees, try to keep your knees over your ankles as much as possible. They may go to your toes, but please, try not to let them go past your toes.
Watch your knee alignment – don’t let your knees collapse in towards the middle as they bend. Activate the outside of your hip to keep the knees open and in line with your feet.
Imagine as you lower that your glutes are contracting to prevent you from sitting down, as far as you can OR until you feel yourself hitting the chair.
(note: if you have very tight quads, ITB, or piriformis, you may feel weird stretches or pulls keeping yourself in this alignment. If you try it, and feel any of these things, just let us know in your next session so we can release anything that may be preventing you from keeping good alignment)
When you’re standing from sitting:
Before you stand up, contract your glutes (i.e. squeeze your butt cheeks) just slightly, about 10% of your max.
Check that your ankles are directly under your knees – i.e. don’t start with your knee forward of your toes.
Pushing through your heels, use your glutes (i.e. butt/hips) to push yourself up – vs pulling yourself up with your thighs.
You will have to lean forward a bit to stand up, but again, keep your shoulders as upright as you can.
Don’t stop contracting your glutes until your hips, knees, and ankles are all in alignment (i.e. you’re standing up straight).
This approach to standing and sitting does take some practice, especially if your glutes have been ignored for a long time.
But once you get them active you’ll find standing up and sitting down much easier on your knees and you may even notice an improvement in any lower back issues you may get from time to time.
Use Your Glutes Going Up Stairs
This last one is probably the trickiest of the 3 to get your head around, but it does get easier with practice.
Most people, when they go up and down the stairs, are very heavy on their quads and hamstrings.
This mindset to going up stairs will help re-train your brain to get your glutes in on the action, and hopefully take some pressure off the quads.
When you put your foot on the next step up, try to place your ankle underneath your knee as directly as you can.
Imagine that your glutes/hips are pushing your torso/body UP and OVER your foot (vs your thigh/leg/knee is PULLING you up to the next step).
To get a better connection with your glutes, if the stair is big enough that you can put your whole foot on it, push up through your heel instead of your toes.
To make it easier to connect in with your glutes, contract your lower stomach muscles and pelvic floor.
Now, Get Started!
Take a few minutes to practice each of these movements, so you can feel the connection to your glutes and feel comfortable with the alignment.
Choose one to incorporate in your week before you add another. This will allow you to focus on doing one thing well at a time, vs doing three things poorly and probably, let’s face it, forgetting it all together.
Remember, if you have any trouble with any of them, just ask us in your next session.
Do you know anyone who could use some help waking up their glutes in their day to day life?
Please share this article with them so they can start practicing too.
Once you’ve tried them, leave a comment below: how do you find it? Is one of them easier or harder than the others? I’d love to know if you’re able to feel that glute connection.
Time to Deal with Your Desk-related Neck & Shoulder Pain?
Neck, shoulder, or lower back pain starts small and quiet, and slowly builds, years pass, and you end up in constant achy/pain or looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
If you want to take care of yourself this year, and learn how to sit properly at your desk plus all the stretches and exercises we teach our clients, you can save £40 off our online course, only this weekend (£97, usualy £137).
Get £40 off our online neck & shoulder pain course for desk workers, No Pain at Work.
NPAW is a 6-week online course (with lifetime access). After NPAW you’ll know exactly what stretch to do when, how to fit it in your day to day life, and what good posture is.
If you’re really ready to tackle your desk-related neck and shoulder pain, this Black Friday weekend we’re rolling out something very special.
And, because it’s brand new, we have a limited number of these packages available and are offering £100 off to our first few customers only until Monday.
The Deskworker Intensive is a 2 or 3 month package to really get to the heart of your problem.
60 min sessions
lifetime access to our online neck & shoulder pain course
private facebook group
automatic reminders & videos for your exercises via text or email
daily tracking so we’re sure you’re making progress
Basically, it’s an intensive package to help you feel better and be able to take care of yourself going forward.
For more details about what’s included and how you can apply click here.
Supporting Waltham Forest Feet on the Street
This year we’re raising awareness for and supporting Waltham Forest Feet on the Street.
They’re a local outreach group that support the homeless in our community by distributing meals, clothes, helping them get to appointments, and basically making sure that people less fortunate than us are not forgotten.
We’ll also be collecting goods for them at our Leyton location (and sometimes Angel if it’s not too big for me to take home on the tube!)
They are planning a Christmas dinner for their guys, as they call them, and in addition to goods they’re always happy to have volunteers to help them pass things out or man their hall during the week.
Thanks so much for reading, and if you decide to take advantage of the extra savings during this weekend, thank you again!
If you have any questions or would like help with anything, please feel free to email us at [email protected] and we will be happy to help.
Do you know someone who might need a hint about what to get you this Christmas?
Or who could use some help in taking care of themselves or with their neck & shoulder pain?
Why not share this post with them and see if they get a little holiday inspiration :)?
*Terms and conditions: Please note that by purchasing any of the vouchers, you are agreeing to the following terms and conditions. This holiday special is available until 31 December 2018. The gift voucher must be purchased as a gift (i.e., not for yourself) and is valid until the end of June 2020. Purchaser will receive a coupon code valid for 20% off a session of equal or lesser value. The voucher cannot be exchanged for money, and the coupon cannot be transferred to anyone other than the purchaser.
If you purchase online, you will receive a confirmation email with a link to download your voucher and coupon. The email will contain a unique voucher and coupon code for your purchase – keep these safe as once it’s been redeemed we cannot accept it a second time.
Terms and conditions for No Pain at Work and memberships can be found in their checkout pages – please review them when signing up as you agree to them when you purchase either 🙂 .