Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Grey Skies And A Sunny Start

I was at church on Sunday and there was an air of 'flat-pan-cake' about the place. We are a small group and there is no denying it; January and February have been pretty bleak. Grey skies, bugs that are keeping people indoors, cold and damp weather has seeped into joints and bones are tiered. If you are in the U.K at the moment there is not much color to be enjoyed.

Even the Chiropractic Centre in Godalming that has been recently taken-over has been painted a slate grey with dark green window frames. They do great work there, but to be honest, as I walk along the river and look over the lamas lands all I see now is a squat grey unwelcoming building instead of the happy cream/yellow that used to brighten the horizon. Personally I don't think it does justice to the people who work there as they are fantastic Practitioners.

So, what is this blog about today? It's about five things to help us think 'UP'!

We all need things in our lives that will pull us through to summer, so here are my top tips of the day.

1) Start your day with color.
Instead of your normal cup of tea, why not try zesting an orange over a cup and adding some mint leaves and pouring hot water over it for a lovely tisane? I got this one from Jamie Oliver, and I have to say that it makes me smile in the mornings.
The other thing that I like to do is make a smoothy for breakfast. This morning I shoved oats, mixed seeds, kiwi, banana and a mango in a blender and zapped it up with some orange juice. Totally useless if you are a diabetic, but it did give me the lift I needed!

2) Read a book.
This may sound like a silly idea, but I am sure you will feel it pays off. Instead of watching T.V as soon as you sit down tonight, make a hot chocolate or a herb tea, switch a nice lamp on and light some candles so the room, and yourself, are nicely relaxed. Then go pick up that novel you have been meaning to read for a while and enjoy it for a good half hour or more. It's not allowed to be a self help book or a fact book, it should be a good story.  Then, if you have had enough you can pop the T.V on. Reading a novel helps you unwind and allows your imagination to take over. I got the top tip from FLYlady and I have to say it's a winner.

3) Invite some mates over for a meal at your house.
Last week David and I were invited to an impromptu curry night on a Thursday. A friend of ours got a bunch of us round, handed us a take-out menu from the local curry house and we all ate together. It was an off the cuff thing that only took an email to organize and no one had to cook. For £10 a head it was a very laid back and relaxed way to spend a bitterly cold night with good friends. You don't have to fight this bleak winter on your own. You'll be surprised how many people want to be with you and hang out as long as you ask ... we need the invite sometimes!

4) Wear colorful clothes. 
I have to say, there has been a great amount of grey and black around lately and we don't need to add to the colour pallet of Slate. You don't have to hit the shops, just see what you've got.
Have a good look in your wardrobe tonight and pull out everything that has some colour to it and that makes you feel good. Make some outfits up and put them together on hangers. This is another FLYLady tip which cuts down faffing time in the morning as you only have to pull out one hanger that has all your clothes ready for the day. However, if you look at your accessories as well, like your scarves, gloves, jewelry and so on, you may find that you have a lot of colour in there that you can add to your day. I believe in accessorizing can add a lot of fun and lift an outfit out of the depths of 'bleak'.
Men; you have no accuse not to do this too. Have a look at your suits, shirts, ties, scarves, coats and soaks. Add colour were you can and don't just settle for black and white. A pop of colour will make you and all those around you feel less low.

5) Do something different. 
If you fancy getting some adrenalin going and your spirits up, why not try something different and go climbing? It's fun to do with a friend, or you can phone up the local climbing centre and join a group. It's easy, you don't have to be super fit and if I can do it any one can! Give it a go and see if you enjoy something a bit different from the gym or swimming. You never know, you could be on to a whole new thing!
Don't fancy climbing? Go to a dance class or a yoga session. Just try something that you have always wanted to but never got round to. Don't make the winter even more boring by stuffing yourself onto a tred-mill. Yawn!

So, hope it helps and that you get some mental inspiration to lift you out of the fog.

Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Face Pain: Nerd Out With Pterygoids

Gibert's TMJ is at the top left of this pic,
just where the blue tape starts, which
indicates his Lateral Pterygoid. 
I love Latin and Greek; it makes everything in Anatomy sounds so cool! Today we are going to nerd out with your Pterygoids; pronounced TER-ri-goids. According to Basic Clinical Massage Therapy, the word in greek means "Winglike" as it radiates from the jaw.

The Temporomandibula Joint (TMJ) is the joint you can feel move when you open and close your mouth. If you lightly place your finger just in-front of you ear, then open and close your mouth you will feel it move. If you feel both sides at the same time you may feel discrepancies between the two sides and this can mean that you may have restrictions within the joint itself.

Back view of Lateral Pterygoid.
The TMJ can cause a lot of problems and face pain can be linked to this area in a very predictable way. I want to start today with Pterygoids as I feel they are over looked as part of a whole approach to face and headache treatments. They are small, deep, not easy to reach and so not many therapists treat them or ask their clients to work on them at home. So, you and I are going deep into the mouth to work them out; both anatomically and treatments wise.

You have two Pterygoids each side of you jaw; your medial/internal and your lateral/external.

The lateral/external Pterygoid (see the photos with the blue tape marking it out), is a multi tasker as it can raise and lower your mandible (lower jaw), move it so it juts in and out, and open your mouth (depress) it as well. Also, it makes the grinding action by moving the mandible to the opposite side.

The back view of the Medial Pterygoid
The Medial Pterygoid (all photos with red tape) allows you to take the jaw to the opposite side, lift your jaw when you close your mouth and jut your chin out. The medial Pterygoid has a close relationship with another muscle, your Masseter, which I have touched on before but we will be looking at it again soon. So, when we treat the Masseter, we should always remember the Medial Pterygoids as they are effected at the same time.

It is said by Finando and Finando that "Most patients with temporomandibular dysfunction suffer primarily from a muscle disorder that includes the involvement of the Pterygoids". I would agree with the rest of the comments made in their book which state that they shouldn't be treated on their own, instead, all the masticatory muscles (the mouth muscles) should be treated to help TMJ pain.

Maybe it is the English prudish nature that stops treatments taking place on these muscles as it involves massaging the inside of the mouth, between the cheek and teeth. It is vital, in my mind, that the massage therapist gets involved in treating this area as so much pain can be related to it.

The trigger point based pain patterns that these muscles can get radiate out causing general pain in the throat, mouth, and TMJ. Sore throats, difficulties in chewing, talking, yawning, and all action that means opening and closing the mouth will hurt and can be associated with the Pterygoids. Also, the jaw may swing to one side or the other, causing problems with teeth later on.

Side View of the Medial Pterygoid. 
TMJ dysfunction can produce symptoms such as clicking in the jaw, problems in chewing, teeth grinding, too much mucus can be formed in the maxillary sinus, which can feel like sinusitis, as well as tinnitus. Also, your jaw may really, really hurt! It's best to get a diagnosis from your dentist or general medical practitioner as although you massage therapist may be able to treat it, they wont be able to diagnose it for you.

At home you can do a lot for yourself to help. Pop your thumb in your mouth and place it between your teeth and cheek, so your fingers are on the outside of the cheek. Then gently close your mouth. Gently move your thumb to the back of the mouth and you will feel a bone like structure which you can gently rub up and down, but it may be very sensitive so go easy! Then lightly pinch, rub and roll your thumb and fingers around the whole cheek area (which will also treat your Masseter). There maybe painful spots which through pain patterns around your face and head, stay with them and make sure they are worked with a light but positive touch. Don't rush as you can do this three or four times a day for 3 mins each side. Little and often helps loads.

To stretch your Pterygoids, simply place a hand under your chin and open your mouth. The hand should provide a bit of resistance to the mouth opening action. Count five breaths and relax, then just repeat it twice more. Then simply chew up and down for a bit to ease it out.

So, I hope this has been a good start for you all to see how Face Pain can be looked at by going right down deep into the anatomy around the mouth. We shall be looking at some bigger and more accessible muscles later on, but I wanted to kick off with some that are A) pretty cool B) some of the hardest to write about C) some of the least treated.

Happy chewing and I look forward to writing to you next time!


Of course the I didn't come up with the anatomy, information, treatments or stretches on my own; I had a lot of help from these great books:

Trail Guide To The Body 4th Edition By Andrew Biel

Basic Clinical Massage Therapy, Integrating Anatomy and Treatment, Second Edition by Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins

Trigger Point Therapy for Myofascial Pain, The Practice of Informed Touch by D. Finando and S Finando.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Face Pain (Introduction).

Good morning! I am sitting in our living room watching the sun pop its head over the horizon. All the frost is glinting and the sky looks like Rose flavored Turkish Delight. Mr Finchley, our cat, is over the moon that its spring time and I have a sinking feeling that all the garden birds will have to be on 24 hour patrol to guard their new nests from him. He has started to realize that bird feeders are his equivalent to the Gold Arches ... Fast food for lazy cats!

But it is an introduction to the new subject of Face Pain that I want to write about this morning, not the overwhelming hilarity of watching a kitten skip across an icy garden.

All pain is horrid, but I seem to hear a lot about people with 'Face Pain' at the moment. There is a difference between headaches and the fact that your face hurts. I wrote six blogs about Head And Neck Pain back in 2011, and I would encourage you to read them if you are having a lot of headaches. This set of blogs will be looking more into 'Face Pain' with a look back over headaches at the end. As a precursor to any blog I write about anatomy and pain, I would ask you to read through the Pain Patterns Explained so that you can understand where I am writing from; I'm not here to diagnose, I'm just here to write about how muscles and fascia may have a baring on pain being experienced. You need to see your Medical Practitioner for any pain you may be suffering from so that you can get a full diagnosis and take it from there.

Introducing Gilbert,
 with a close up of his TMJ.
The one thing I notice about people in pain is that the look angry. They aren't necessarily angry at all, but all the tension and constant inner battle that they have so that they can get by on a daily basis means that the tension can often end up in their face, causing a pinched, or angry look to manifest. The tension in the face can then cause secondary issues with the muscles around the eyes, cheeks, chin, throat and upper back setting off muscular based pain patterns.

This is really what I would like to spend our time on over the forthcoming weeks; how to relax the face.

There will be some nerdy anatomy and for that Gilbert will be helping us; he will be all taped up to show you where the muscles are, and I will do my best to guide you in ways to help yourself at home in-between your massage sessions. We will spend the next blog looking at the Temporomandibular Joint, also known as the 'TMJ'. This small joint can have far reaching effects and if we want to start easing the face out then it is a fantastic point to start from.

I'm really looking forward to looking into this subject with you as I think it is one that is rarely talked about as headaches seem to take over in priority sometimes. I remember in my anatomy course that the muscles of the face were only glanced over in relation to how much time we spent looking at muscles that caused headaches. I think for that reason I spent a lot of time researching face pain for myself out of class time as I was curious to find out about a subject that got little notice taken of it. We have so many tiny muscles in the face that we shouldn't be surprised that they have grumpy days and start moaning at us.

Enjoy your day and I hope that it is light, bright and full of hope; both actual and metaphorical!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Changing In Time For Spring.

Roses on my desk 2012
I'm sorry that I haven't posted for a week or so; work has been most enjoyable and I have had a great week helping with some clients understand some nerdy anatomy, work wonders with helping to cool menopausal skin and have basically looked around my treatment room and felt very for-filled, so I am getting back to blogging today.

I have spent this afternoon looking through the last layers of things in my office. I have treatment notes that are over three years old that need shredding, files of outdated class notes as new research has come along since then, books that need to be up-dated with new editions and I have decided to get rid of my old black filing cabinet.

Also, this week saw David and I talking with Jon Millington who will be editing the words for the new Cornerstone Website, and Fenwick Walker has some amazing designs for it. I have a strong sense that after five years of coping with myself faffing around I will actually get a website that will look simply amazing in a couple of months! Whoop!

The last vestiges of Cornerstone Therapy pre Advanced Clinical Massage and Skin Care Therapy are leaving the building.

Maybe it is spring. Maybe it is just time to let go. Maybe I'm making room for new adventures ...

Who knows? And to be honest, I don't really care, as it's just wonderful to feel fresh life being billowed through the windows into the business. Fresh, clean air with the hope of spring to come.

Part of the re-organization is that I have been tracking all your clicks onto the blog! It's been really quite surprising to find out that there are some pretty cool nerds out there reading the anatomy blogs as well as some skin care fanatics that just love the extra knowledge of how skin works. So, I am looking to shape the blog over the next few months to suit you both.

I am not good at writing series one after the other as my brain gets distracted so I'm going to look at writing a couple in tandem: One for the Anatomy-Nerds among you and another for the Dermal-Lovers.  They will be for all those looking for more knowledge about their own needs, pain, interests and general random searches, but I hope you enjoy them.

I'm kicking off with the subject of head-aches next week, and then I will start introducing the subject of premature aging on the skin the week after.

So, I hope that you enjoy the next few blogs. Please keep in touch an let me know what you think, what you want to read about on the blog and any ideas that you think I can add in.

Right, I think the shredder is cool now and I can get back stripping out the old so I can work on the new.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Base Oil - The Third

Macerated Oils. 

Driving home yesterday after a training session at Dermalogica, I was almost overwhelmed by the sunset. The colours were vivid, with the light causing the trees to be silhouetted in-front of the setting  light; the photo above is the same vibrant eye-full as the sunset last night. It is a photo of Calendula Officinalis, or the marigold flower. 

So what does the beautiful sunset, the common marigold and my blog have in common? Massage oil! (Well, the sun was simply wonderful, but it did make me think of writing today!)

Macerated oils are often misunderstood and underused in my opinion as they are not talked about much. It's easy to think of them in terms of music: Almond oil is King of the Oil World - the oil which is blended with most things, easy to use, non-perfumed and so all essences can be blended with him. Almond is the one that all the others gossip about and see as the pop-star. Macerated Oils are the Independent Musicians struggling to make their voice heard with loads to offer, have healing words and are true gems as soon as you find them. Macerated oils are the oils that are played on BBC6 Music late at night, that have a tiny army of fanatical fans and are plugging away in the background doing really interesting things. Personally I would rather listen to BBC6 Music than watch Pop Idol, so I guess you can see why I am passionate about these oils. They are truly remarkable! 

Maceration is the process of oil extraction that is used when you want to get to the healing properties of an oil but they are carried in the flower head. Calendula, Carrot, Melissa, Arnica and Lime Blossom are some examples of oils that are produced through maceration. To start the process of maceration, the chopped flower heads are put into a vat of oil, (normally olive, almond or sunflower oil), and then the vats are agitated over a period of a few days. The oil in the vat acts as a very gentle solvent to the flower heads and it gently lifts the properties that are required from them, resulting in a richly infused oil. Why is it produced this way? Well, it is often seen as a good way of extracting oils when other methods would be too expensive or cumbersome and as it works so well; why not?
Calendula Oil can be used to form up to 25% of the total mix of a base oil, so I would still add other oils to it if I were to use it in Aromatherapy. Or it can be used on its own in it's pure form. It is a wonderful anti-inflammatory oil and has been used to help damaged skin such as eczema, scars, ulcers, chapped and cracked skin, bruises and the like. It is really versatile and a wonderful oil to have around the house if you want a soothing oil to rub into the skin.

Arnica Oil is the one I reach for in times of emergency! No one should be without it. It is fantastic for bodies that are feeling over run, bruised, bumped, achy, sprained or strained. It's also a beautiful oil to use on back and shoulder ache and to be honest I tend to use this on its own without a blend to harness the purity of it. Just don't use it on cracked skin. 

Carrot Oil is quite funky and is a macerated oil from finely chopped carrot root, rather than the flower heads. Filled with beta-carotene it is used to help rejuvenate the skin and help with the anti-inflammatory process. I have to confess to never having used it as I can't find an organic supplier for it and as carrots are sprayed so heavily, I would rather have it if it is unadulterated. However, I think it is rather a cool oil in theory and would love to try using it some day!

Macerated base oils are a must to help the healing process and are a great tool to aromatherapy. I love the fact that they can be used neat and have a wonderful effect on the body, or they can still be blended and mixed with other base oils and essences to taylor make an oil just for you. 

Do ask your therapist about the oils that they use. Aromatherapy is an art and each blend will be different and unique, but worth the effort and time when blended well. However if your massage therapist uses pre-blended oils, (and I rely on them heavily), they are still fantastic and will offer your body specific properties to help aid you. Pre-blends simply mean that the oil manufacturer has developed a standardized essential oil blend that is blended into a vegetable oil and it will be the same in each bottle. I love them and for any type of massage apart from true Aromatherapy oil they are a must. 


These blogs are not aimed at telling you how to blend oils, use them on yourself, family or friends, or give you the techniques to practice. It is just aimed at giving you background knowledge so that you can identify with your therapist in a deeper manner. If you are interested in the subject, please look to your local education providers so that you can learn how to use these tools safely, as they can be dangerous if used incorrectly.

Of course, I have used some great books to help with this series of blogs and they are:
The Book by Dermalogica

Aromatherapy Diploma Course Notes (Stonebridge College)
Essential Oils by Susan Curtis (Neal's Yard Remedies Publishing)
Aromatherapy An A-Z by Patricia Davis (Daniel Publishing)
The Art Of Aromatherapy by Robert Tisserand (Daniel Publishing).

Shop Dermalogica