This month’s issue focuses on your long-term health and how massage can help. Much of living brings very subtle changes to your body that you may not really notice for months or years. Obviously, it’s in your best interest to do what you can to maintain a higher level of health and support your body’s goals to keep things in proper balance.
The articles in this issue address high-heel wearers, because it’s a good example of how your body adjusts to small changes over time. As you read these articles, think of the other ways your body can get out of balance: sitting in certain positions for long periods of time, cradling a phone in the crook of your neck, or sitting on a wallet are just a few examples.
Regular massage can help your body lessen or correct many of these problems. Since any imbalance in your body can adversely affect other areas of your body, it’s important to do all you can to support your body’s long-term health. And what better way than a rejuvenating massage?
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Massage and Your Long-term Health An important part of a healthy future is being aware of what changes your body is undergoing through the years. Many of the health challenges you’ll face in your later years can take decades to develop.
As we age, the likelihood of experiencing structural imbalances increases. We’ve all seen older people who can no longer stand up straight. Often, the cause of this type of problem is a group of muscles, tendons, or other connective tissue that has, over time, become tight or shortened. The body learns to accept this shortened position as being “normal.”
One of the great benefits of regular massage is its ability to help relax your muscles and related structures. By helping to bring nutrient-rich blood to your muscles and helping to remove cellular waste, massage should better equip your body to do its job and keep all your systems functioning more optimally.
The following articles are good examples of what can happen to your body when a group of muscles becomes chronically tight. If you have further questions, please ask at your next appointment.
Another Reason to Choose Flat Footwear: Osteoarthritis They may be in fashion, but research is increasingly indicating high heels cause long-term physical damage. In July, MASSAGE Magazine reported on research that showed regular high-heel wearing leads to shortened calf muscles; now, a new study shows wearing high heels may lead to joint degeneration and knee osteoarthritis.
The research was conducted by Iowa State University kinesiology professor and chair Phil Martin and kinesiology master's student Danielle Barkema.
Barkema selected three different heel heights, flat, two inches, and 3.5 inches, and had each of the 15 women in her study complete walking trials. She measured the forces acting about the knee joint and the heelstrike-induced shock wave that travels up the body when walking in heels. Using sensors, accelerometers and lab equipment such as a force platform and markers/cameras, she was able to capture motion and force data and translate them into results that could change the way millions of women select their footwear, according to a university press release.
"Obviously with research like this, you can't say with any certainty that if you wear high heels regularly you will develop osteoarthritis. We don't know that," Barkema said. "There are probably people [high heel wearers] who do and those who do not. However, based on this information, wearing high heels puts individuals at greater risk for developing osteoarthritis. And it seems to be that the higher the heel height, the greater the risk."
The researchers found that heel height changes walking characteristics such as slower speeds and shorter stride lengths. And as the heels got higher, they also saw an increase in the compression on the inside … of the knee.
"This means that prolonged wearing and walking in heels could, over time, contribute to joint degeneration and knee osteoarthritis," Barkema said.
The study was presented, in part, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Biomechanics August 18-21, at Brown University in Providence, R.I.
The price of wearing high heels — Wearing high heels is uncomfortable enough while they’re on, but for some women the pain really kicks in when the shoes come off. That’s because for regular wearers of high heels, Achilles tendons thicken and stiffen over time, scientists in England have found. The tendon apparently stiffens to compensate for calf-muscle fibers that have been shortened by heel-wearing. Using MRI scans and ultrasound, the researchers compared images of the calves and tendons of 11 women who wore 2-inch heels (and who complained of pain when walking without heels) with those of nine women who wore flats. The calf-muscle fibers of heel-wearers, they found, were 1 percent shorter than those of the flats-wearers, and their tendons were thicker as well. Some simple exercises can head off the muscle-shortening, lead author Marco Narici tells the London Daily Telegraph. “If you stand on your tiptoes and lower your heels up and down again, it will stretch out the tendons, making it easier to walk without heels.” Narici recommends doing this 20 times a day. The alternative: Switch to good-looking flats.
– The Week Vol. 10 Iss. 475
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— Sir Winston Churchill
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— Albert Schweitzer