Tag Archives: stretch

Cupping Therapy

By Tim Penner, Registered Massage Therapist

Cupping therapy is a technique using cups applied to the skin to treat an array of illnesses. Used for centuries, its popularity continues to grow as people seek alternative and natural methods for treatment. Cupping stimulates healing by pulling blood to the region being treated. It promotes new blood flow to the area and removes stagnant blood which causes an anti-inflammatory effect by encouraging the body to release white blood cells, platelets, fibroblasts and other healing substances. Cupping is an effective technique to stretch fascia and muscles by helping to separate the different layers of tissue through the use of suction.

Cupping therapy uses cups, made of soft silicone and hard plastic, to suction soft tissue.  It is this vacuum effect, or negative pressure that provides a therapeutic result when applied to the skin. Many types of cupping therapy have been developed over the years. At BodyTech Physiotherapy our massage therapist uses 2 different types of cupping techniques: massage cupping and dry cupping. Massage cupping is usually done in a massage therapy treatment in which the cups are applied to the skin and moved around. Dry cupping is slightly different as the cups are applied to the skin and the affected body part is moved around to create a stretching effect.

Is cupping for me?                          

Massage or dry cupping can be used for many different conditions. The effects on the body include helping decrease stress, encourage relaxation and improve circulation. It can also be used to decrease swelling in certain areas and can help improve respiration when applied to the ribs and chest.  When it is used in conjuntion with massage and in specific areas, it helps reduce tension in muscles, and fascial tissue restrictions. The combination of massage and cupping leads to improved range of motion and posture. It can reduce tone in the muscles, help to improve flexibility and aid in reducing fascial adhesions left behind by old injuries. Cupping can help with many conditions such as low back pain, fibromyalgia, whiplash and tendonitis.

Some conditions that can be treated with cupping

  • Tendonitis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Low back pain
  • Whiplash
  • Tension headaches
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Sprain/strain
  • Golfer/tennis elbow
  • IT band friction syndrome

cupping1                cupping2

Low back pain                                      Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome

Along with the conditions listed above, cupping also can be beneficial to the people suffering from the effects of Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis, as well as using it to aid in rehabilitation after a major injury or surgery.

The most common side effect of cupping therapy is the bruised appearance that you see after the treatment is completed. The discolouration of the skin is only on the surface of the skin and does not generally cause pain after the massage. The bruised appearance can last for a few days or even up to a week. If significant bruising occurs your therapist will promptly remove the cups and discuss the effects with you.

Overall, cupping therapy can be beneficial to almost everyone. Just like massage, every treatment is specific and individualized to each client and their needs.

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Why dancers need the perfect balance of strength and flexibility

By Kelsey Jack, PT

My ballet teacher once told me that given a choice between having strength and flexibility, she would choose strength. This has always stuck with me as there is such an emphasis on flexibility within the dance world that often there is a lack of focus on building the strength required to make use of that flexibility. This enhanced focus on flexibility instead of a balance between strength and flexibility creates muscle imbalances. If dancers work to improve their flexibility and ignore balancing the strength around the joints, it leaves the dancer vulnerable to injury.

Why is balancing strength and flexibility important?

Stability is provided to joints from a combination of passive and active structures. Passive structures include the bones that make up the joint and the ligaments that surround it and support it. Active structures are the muscles and tendons that act to both maintain stability and move the joint. Focusing on passive, static stretching, as is often the case in dance, can lead to instability of joints as the ligaments that are meant to stabilize the joint become stretched out and no longer provide joint support.

Flexibility, or range of motion can be divided into two categories: passive and active. Passive range of motion is demonstrated by how high a dancer is able to lift their leg using their hands whereas active range of motion is how high a dancer is able to lift their leg using their hip muscles and is demonstrated by doing a step like a developpé.  Practically speaking, flexibility without strength limits active range of motion and will hinder the height of legs when performing steps that involve controlled movements and sustained positions.

Back bends are a good example of a movement that is common in dance where strength is required to balance the flexibility of the spine. Dancers without good core strength and control will hinge through their spine, relying on one or two segments to gain all of their movement through. This leaves the spine vulnerable to injury as the ligaments and discs are relied on for support. Ideally when doing a back bend the spine should form a “C” curve. Many teachers instruct dancers to breathe up and extend through the top of their head into their back bend to encourage control into this movement pattern. Engagement of the abdominals and stabilizer muscles of the spine are required to move through each segment of the spine in a way that supports the passive structures of the back to create the desired curve.  It is subtle differences such as these in how a dancer moves, using strength to control their flexibility, that improves the quality of movement and decrease the future risk of injury.

Evidence to support strengthening to increase flexibility

As dancers are often concerned about their hip flexibility, a study was done looking into the best way to increase hip active range of motion. The researchers compared three stretching programs over a six week period. The first group of dancers completed a strengthening program where they worked at strengthening their hip flexors at the end of their available range of motion. The second group completed a “light” stretching program for their gluteals, hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps muscles, holding each stretch for 1 minute. This group was asked to perform stretches at an intensity of 3/10 on a scale where 0 is no stretch and 10 is an intense stretch that elicits a burning sensation. The third group performed the same stretches but at a “moderate-high” intensity which was rated as 8/10 on the same scale. The study found that all three groups had an increase in their passive range of motion but only the strength training and the low intensity stretching groups improved their active range of motion. The strengthening group saw the greatest improvements in both passive and active range of motion which is explained by the hamstrings relaxing as the hip flexor is contracted. This allows the hamstring to lengthen while the hip flexor is strengthened. Intense stretching without strengthening (as in the high intensity group) leads to lengthened, weakened muscles which functionally hinder a dancer’s ability to make use of their range of motion. This study demonstrates that exercises that specifically train the hip flexors progress flexibility in a way that translates into dance.

Strengthening allows dancers to maximize their flexibility without compromising the integrity of their passive support structures and increasing their risk of injury. A physiotherapist can assess a dancer’s strength and flexibility and develop a program that will safely allow a dancer to increase their flexibility while strengthening the muscles needed to support their joints, improve performance, and decrease risk of future injury.

BodyTech Physiotherapy

References:

Wyon MA, Smith A, Koutedakis Y. A Comparison of Strength and Stretch Interventions on Active and Passive Ranges of Movement in Dancers: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2013. 27(11)3053.