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Tight Hip Flexors May be the Root of your Constant Pain

Living in Pain? Hip Flexors Play a Huge Role in your Posture & Could be the Root of your Discomfort.

Michael Bruffee, Senior LMT & September’s featured therapist, dives into the root of your constant pain. There’s a good chance it has to do with your hip flexors.

What is the most common pain issue you see in clients?

The most common pain issue I see in clients is probably neck and shoulder pain, from improper sitting posture in front of a computer at work, and looking down at their phones. The runner-up is probably lower back pain often caused by tight hip flexors (among other things), also from spending too much time sitting down in chairs.

How do you work to correct this issue?

I find it useful to ask myself, “where are the causes of this problem?” Often with the neck and shoulder pain that I see that is the result of poor posture, the client’s head is pushed forward. This causes the body to engage the wrong muscles to hold up the weight of the skull. Normally, the head is held in place by a sling formed by the Sternocleidomastoid muscles and the Splenius Capitus muscle. When the head is pushed forward, the body inefficiently recruits the help of the Levator Scapula muscle. This muscle runs from the superior angle (upper inside corner) of the shoulder blade to the lateral processes of the neck vertebrae. Correct posture uses muscles anchored on the spine and the skull, which is very stable. With head forward posture, the body is using a muscle anchored on one of the most mobile bones in the body. It’s certainly not very stable. No wonder so many people experience neck pain!

Don’t know what all those anatomy terms mean? See images below 👇

I focus on giving the front of the neck some slack by working lower on the body then up towards the neck. First, I’ll release the muscles on the front of the legs and the hip flexors. I’ll then lengthen the vertical abdominal muscles before I release the muscles on the front of the neck. I find that if I don’t do all that prep work first, the gains that a client walks away with won’t be as transformative & lasting. They will have a harder time changing their postural habits.

For homework, I’ll often tell my neck-and-shoulder pain clients to stretch their quads and their abdominal muscles. This gives your hip flexors a break from their contracted position. Dynamic stretching for shoulders can also be a huge help. Pigeon pose and cobra pose in yoga are perfect for keeping the lower anterior myofascial lines long and limber. I’ll often show clients a Qi-Gong exercise to keep the muscles surrounding the shoulder blade mobile. A combination of dynamic and static stretching, within the limits of one’s mobility, is good for preventing further pain.

Do you have a favorite area to work on? What do you like about it?

My favorite area to work on is the hips. Improper orientation of one’s pelvis can create so many problems! I find that releasing the muscles around the hip joints (like hip flexors), and between the pelvis & lower back can provide tons of relief. Since the pelvis is our center of gravity, teaching someone to shift how they stand to reduce their pain, can go a seriously long way. It’s the start of them living a pain-free life. If I’m being honest, I would rather someone have so much success that I never see them again (unless they just want a great maintenance massage). I mean that with love! ☺️

Here’s a quick video on how to stretch your quadricep muscles which will help with hip flexor tightness:

Owner of Bodyworks DW, David Weintraub, explains how you can relieve some on your hip flexor tension by stretching your quads.

What inspired you to start a career in massage therapy?

I took a long, circuitous route to massage therapy. I became familiar with taoist medicine when I started taking a T’ai Ch’i class in high school. In college I studied Anthropology, continuing my fascination with non-western forms of medicine and philosophy. I also studied the Korean martial art, Taekwondo, and began practicing a Korean-American form of Zen Buddhist meditation! All of these practices encouraged me to view health in a more holistic form. Not as an absence of disease but as a practice for life. It wasn’t until I had been living at the Cambridge Zen Center for a few years, that someone suggested to me that I consider a career in massage therapy. Once in school, I devoted myself to learning Shiatsu, a Japanese form of bodywork based in Chinese medical theory. I also studied advanced forms of western myofascial release.

Do you have a favorite massage therapy success story?

My favorite success story is from a client who came to see me with major migraines. When we did a medical intake for the first time, she had a long list of falls that had jolted her shoulders and her neck. As a result, the muscles in her neck & the back of her skull were prone to spasming pretty frequently, causing lots of debilitating headaches.

Migraines are a special fascination of mine. In both Eastern and Western medical perspectives, migraines are a result of really complex causes and conditions. Fortunately, with a program of regular, focused massage therapy much of the symptoms can be greatly reduced. After working with this client for about six months, she went from having barely any pain-free days, to having only one migraine a month! After a year, she had a migraine every two months & was starting to get back into working out and exercising. Her quality of life has vastly improved, and now when she comes in, I see a radical difference. Before, she was miserable. Now she has a smile on her face. And that’s the kind of story that makes me love this job.

How to Find the Right Massage Therapist

How to Find the Massage Therapist for You

Michael Bruffee, Senior LMT at Bodyworks DW, gives tips on how to choose the right medical massage therapist for you! Check it out below.

Michael Bruffee

Massage Therapy is gaining in popularity and recognition as a legitimate and powerful tool. It heal injuries, relieves stress, and improves overall health. However, to the uninitiated looking for high-quality care, the search can be confusing. There's a dizzying array of different treatment styles all under the umbrella of massage. Here is our guide to finding a great massage therapist in New York and everywhere else!

1. Find a State Licensed Massage Therapist.

If you’re not sure, ask if they’re licensed and registered with your state.

To us in the industry, this is obvious. But there are many people out there offering massage who are not state licensed, and not state registered. Licensing is important because it means there's a baseline of safety protocols that the therapist follows. These include proper privacy draping, extensive knowledge of anatomy and physiology, and required knowledge of scope of practice.

Massage Therapy licensure in New York State requires a minimum of 1000 hours of schooling and clinical practice. There's also a comprehensive written exam that must be passed.

Many unlicensed establishments offering massage are fronts for unseemly practices. Therefore, if you want a legitimate, professional massage therapist, make sure you’re booking appointments with state licensed practitioners. An LMT has specific training in communicating effectively with you about your needs. They'll make your safety and comfort while receiving massage therapy a priority.

This includes proper draping practices to make sure private areas on your body are always covered. Also, the ability to talk you through the therapeutic reasons for working close to these areas. And the professionalism of always allowing you, the client, to make your own choices on what work you are willing to receive.

For New York State, you can verify a therapist’s license, at the NYS Office of Professions verification service.

2. Do research about which modalities of massage are right for you.

Not everyone will need the same approach. Not all therapists use the same techniques.

There are seemingly a million and one types of massage therapy and bodywork out there. Such as, swedish, shiatsu, sports massage, deep-tissue, Rolfing, Feldenkrais, tui-na, thai massage, craniosacral, orthobionomy, reiki, zero balancing, ashiatsu, polarity therapy. As a result, if you’re not sure what something is, do some research beforehand! Clarity is important.

Make sure you’re getting information from reputable sources, such as the American Massage Therapy Association website.

The Difference Between Deeper Tissue Styles & Energy Work Modalities

Most therapy modalities are physical (meaning the therapist applies touch to your body), such as Swedish massage. Swedish is most well-known and featured in many spa settings as relaxing massage. This is a legitimate form of healing that can reduce stress-related pain and other issues.

In addition, other physical modalities include sports massage and deep tissue. Both of which involve deeper, more intense tissue manipulation. Sports massage is more related to athletics. Deep tissue is more related to everyday orthopedic injuries.

Some other therapy modalities are more energetic in nature. Polarity, reiki, and other energy healing therapies may be helpful for people who can’t handle anything more than light touch. Energetic work over time can help bring you out of sympathetic (or fight/flight) nervous system reactions. In turn, it can bring you back into parasympathetic (relaxed) nervous system states.

Many practitioners are fluent in multiple modalities to allow them to support a wide population of clients. Most important is that you know your own body. Know what you’re looking for. Ask questions. Be willing to create a set of boundaries with your therapist. Get a massage that you will be happy about!

3. Make sure your therapist conducts a thorough intake before you start.

Spending several minutes talking about your body and the stress and/or pain you feel will make a huge difference. As a result, your therapist can tailor the session to your needs.

Spending time on a thorough intake ensures that your therapist knows the main issue you’re coming in for. It also lets you know that they're listening and paying attention with their ears. This usually translates to a therapist who also pays attention and listens with their hands. A good therapist practices professional due-diligence. They'll make sure they won’t use any techniques that could exacerbate an injury.

A Great Massage Starts with an Agreement Between You & Your Therapist

The intake is also the time for you and your therapist to come to an agreement about what you need. Remember, your therapist is a professional (assuming you checked off #1 above) who knows anatomy. They're trained in the therapeutic process. However, there's often a desire to simply let the therapist run the show and take whatever you get. Keep in mind that you know your own body.

You can always let a good therapist know the pressure is too light or too deep. In fact, we really want to hear that feedback from you. Then, we know we are giving you the session you want.

Make sure your therapist listens to you and treats you with kindness and respect. For instance, if there are parts of your body, like your face, or your abdomen, or your feet that you really, really don’t want to be touched please let us know.

Thorough Assessment is the Key to a Great Massage

A sign that you’ve found a great therapist is that they'll conduct a postural assessment as part of intake. Pain in your neck may be related to postural shifting due to an old ankle sprain or hip injury. Working only on the area that hurts may feel good at the time... But it won’t necessarily allow the pain to go away for more than a day or two.

Your therapist should take the time to assess your whole body posture. Then, they are more likely to see the root causes of your pain and plan the session accordingly.

4. Come up with a multi-session plan to address the issue you came up with.

Massage therapy is a cumulative treatment process.

The best massage therapists will work on addressing the “chief complaint” you bring in that day, but also put the pain in a larger context. They will ask questions.

How do you exercise? What do you do for work? What are your sleeping habits? Any other ways in which you go about your day? All of these questions and observations of your posture help them determine the roots of your pain and make an effective plan to address them.

Working with a therapist over a series of sessions will allow them to get into the root of your pain. Over the course of the series your pain will decrease noticeably and eventually disappear. And you’ll learn self care methods to keep it from coming back later.

The number of sessions will depend on the issue itself. 3-5 for a lesser issue, 5-8 for a moderate issue, 8-12 for a client with multiple acute pains. Committing to a massage therapy series will make sure that your problem doesn’t just get a band-aid. We want your pain solved in a substantial and lasting way.

5. Do your homework.

Great massage therapists will give homework to their clients.

The beneficial nature of massage will depend on how diligently you stick to your homework. You get out of it what you put into it between sessions.

Examples of homework include:

  • Awareness practices, e.g. paying attention to how often you slouch or grit your teeth at your desk, or the position of your neck as you look at your computer
  • Stretches for muscles that are locked short, such as those in the front of the neck, or the front of the thighs.
  • Introducing a habit of movement or breathing in the morning before you go to work for the day

Even if you manage only to do your homework once or twice before your next scheduled session. That is often enough to break out of habitual patterns of movement and jumpstart your trajectory towards improvement. As you start feeling better, the motivation to make a habit of the homework increases until they become routine. You’ll feel more in control of your issues. And you'll feel less reliant on your massage sessions to “get you through.”

At Bodyworks DW, we’ve already done all of the work of finding a great massage therapist in New York for you

Massage therapy in New York is different. We have some of the strictest licensing laws in the country. Each of our massage therapists has been hand-picked and trained by owner David Weintraub. We practice at the highest levels of professional massage therapy available. To keep the staff up to date, David holds mandatory trainings on technical bodywork, treatment protocols, and improving client interactions.

All of our therapists meet all of the above requirements for a great massage therapist in midtown and the financial district:

  1. NYS licenced
  2. Trained in a wide variety of massage modalities
  3. Conduct friendly and thorough intakes for each massage session
  4. Able to create multi-session treatment plans for a wide variety of pain issues
  5. Crafts homework practices for every client that helps them conquer their pain faster and with less time and money

We offer massage therapy in Midtown and the Financial District in New York City. Would you like to schedule a fantastic massage with one of the best massage therapists this city has to offer? Contact Bodyworks DW today or click on the button to book online at our massage therapy midtown or massage therapy fidi studios!

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