Knee & Joint Health

Our knees and other joints can pop, grind, crunch, and make a variety of interesting sounds. Especially if you are increasing or changing your physical activity level, these sounds can be alarming. Often they cause worry about the health of the joint and whether something serious could be wrong.

What makes those sounds: There are a lot of complex tissues in our joints, and most of them can make some noise. Tiny bubbles can form in the joint fluid due to changes in joint pressure, and they make a sound when they pop. Ligaments and tendons can make a click or pop sound as they move over a bony lump and snap back into place. Cartilage can develop uneven areas as we age, and a grinding or crunching sound can be from those rough surfaces gliding across each other.

When to worry: As long as there is no pain or swelling, these sounds are not a reason to worry. They can come from age, use, or healed injuries, and the noises are not part of the alarm system of your body. Our body uses pain and swelling to indicate that there is a problem, and that is how you know when the joint needs extra attention and treatment. And if you ever experience a sudden pop followed by pain, that is almost always an injury that needs treatment.

Support for Joint Health: There are a few keys to supporting joint health, whether they are just noisy or are causing discomfort. Bodywork and movement classes both help restore alignment so that the right muscles and connective tissues are working together, and to relieve muscle tension that can contribute to joint pain. Hydration of the tissues is also key to keeping joints supple and healthy, which is especially supported by bodywork and therapeutic movement. (Hydration in this case means more than just drinking enough liquids; it means using movement or manual therapies to move fluids through the tissues themselves.) Acupuncture is also very effective at treating pain and the imbalances that may be causing that pain.

Joints like knees and shoulders that make interesting sounds without pain are not a cause for alarm. They can serve as reminders to stay committed to our self care, but do not indicate serious damage or injury to the joint.

Compassionate Self-Care

Compassionate self-care begins with where you are right now, at this moment. Instead of focusing on the general laundry list of criticisms so prevalent this time of year, it starts with acceptance of what is happening now, and then opens the gateway to a place that feels more sustainable for both physical and mental health.

Our bodies are often talked about in terms of how they look, or their aesthetic. Some of how we look is a choice, like our awesome shoes or warm hat, and much of how we look is not something that is under our control, like the shape of our eyes or the length of our legs. When we think critically about our bodies for things that we cannot control, we often end up with a loop of critical self-talk that harms our wellbeing.

A better way to talk about our bodies is in terms of how we feel, and how we feel in our bodies is something that we can change, often more than we realize. Taking yourself to class or for a walk can help you feel better for the rest of the day, or several days. Receiving bodywork can release muscle tension and mental stress, leaving you feeling better for days or weeks afterward. Coming to a counselor to talk through feelings of distress can help process through mental and emotional stresses that impact daily life, and acupuncture can effectively address pain and systemic imbalances that disrupt things like sleep and digestion.

If we let go of our expectations that our bodies should have a certain aesthetic, and instead focus on how we feel, we realize the transformative power of self-care. Our bodies are marvellous mechanisms of life, and there are so many ways to support and care for ourselves. When we start with this moment, and ask ourselves what would genuinely help us feel better physically and mentally, then we open the door to creating health and a sense of deep wellbeing.

Bodywork for Stress

Bodywork and massage are one of the most well known treatments for stress. When we are stressed out, our muscles tighten, our breathing gets shallow, we have trouble concentrating, and it can impact our sleep. We can feel this tension and dysregulation in our bodies.

Receiving bodywork helps reset these stress symptoms, but how does it work its magic? It all begins with the parasympathetic nervous system. Our bodies react to stress by activating the sympathetic nervous system, better known as fight or flight mode. The parasympathetic system turns off fight or flight and moves us to rest and digest mode. Bodywork is a very effective way to activate the parasympathetic system and turn off the alarms of stress.

Stress tightens muscles, getting them ready to fight off lions. Since there usually aren’t any real lions to fight, we can end up carrying around a tremendous amount muscle tension. Bodywork works directly with this tension to reset the state of the muscle. This helps cue the nervous system to reset as well, so that tension releases both from outside stimulation and internal cues.

Stress is also a biochemical event in the body, releasing cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress hormones. Bodywork is effective for lowering the stress hormone levels of the body. This in turn promotes more restful sleep, regulates digestion, and even helps regulate mood for a deeper sense of wellbeing.

Bodywork is an effective treatment for stress because it helps reset the nervous system and turn off the biochemical alarms. It helps activate the body’s own ability to recover and heal by improving blood and nutrient flow, reducing tension, and releasing endorphins. This in turn helps you sleep and feel better.

Movement Classes to Reduce Stress

When we feel stress, it is a whole body event. Moving our bodies, dropping in to our breath, and being more fully present helps us shift the state of our nervous system. It supports our ability to move out of crisis mode and toward health and wellbeing.

Our stress hormones are designed to flood our bodies with the extra boost we need to escape lions, tigers, and bears. This is great when we need it, but modern stress does not involve a lot of literal running for our lives. Instead, we often end up stuck in a chronic stress state, where our body thinks that we are always in mortal danger and is constantly sounding alarms. This impairs our ability to repair, restore, and nourish our health.

Movement classes create a dedicated time and space to speak to our stress alarms and give them permission to quiet down. When we drop in to our bodies, it brings us to the present moment and helps turn our attention away from thoughts of the future and past. In this moment, we have breath. We have a heartbeat. There are parts of our bodies that ask for our attention, like sore knees, tight shoulders, or clenched jaws. We can greet them and allow them to move back toward balance.

Being in class also works with our natural neurobiology to reduce stress. It helps to rewire the reactions of our nervous systems away from crisis mode, increasing our ability to handle a stressful situation and recover. It also engages mirror neurons in the brain, amplifying the effect of our practice. When we practice self-care and therapeutic movement with others in a class setting, our brains see other people doing what we are doing, and it increases its effectiveness within our own systems.

Movement classes help manage stress by releasing muscle tension, resetting the nervous system, and increasing our resiliency in the face of difficult situations. Where stress is our body trying to help us survive, we can utilize movement and breath to help ourselves recover and thrive.

Restoring Joy to Generosity

The stress of the holiday season can reduce the joy we feel when we are giving and generous, and can deplete our capacity to give. We can restore our joy and activate the proven health benefits of practicing generosity through connecting with other people and practicing empathy.

Managing stress is key to restoring joy! Because the holiday season is often a time of family gatherings and social togetherness, it can bring up old hurts and emotions. Talking through your feelings with a counselor can help clear the air and restore your emotional equilibrium. Counseling can also help address climbing anxiety levels and work through feelings of depression. Creating time to take care of your emotional self can be a very effective way to address the increasing stress of this time of year, since unacknowledged emotions, unmet expectations, and mood dysregulation can all translate into general feelings of high stress.

When we are able to manage our stress levels, it can greatly increase our capacity to give and to feel generous. This in turn has proven health benefits, as it activates positive feedback loops in the brain. This positive feedback has been shown to increase longevity and improve heart health. It also releases oxytocin, the hormone that helps you feel deep wellbeing through trust and happiness.

Another way to increase our joy and capacity for generosity is to practice mindfulness. When we give to others, no matter the size of the gift, we can be mindful of how that gift makes them feel, and allow ourselves to connect to their feelings. By mindfully practicing empathy, we are able to increase everyone’s joy!

Treating stress through self-care, counseling, and mindfulness replenishes our resources for connection with others. We are then able to feel more of the joy that comes from being generous, filling our own hearts and the hearts of those around us.

Acupuncture for Stress

Acupuncture works like physical therapy for the nervous system, which makes it an effective treatment to reduce the effects of stress on the body. When we feel threatened, the nervous system responds with a cascade of biological changes, getting us ready to fight off bears and run away from lions. However, most of the threats we face in daily life are mental and emotional stressors, not bears and lions. Acupuncture is able to calm and regulate these stress responses in the body, which can improve long term health and wellbeing.

Acupuncture is a safe and effective way to create positive changes in central nervous function. The central nervous system is what governs our fight or flight responses (sympathetic nervous system) and our rest and digest responses (parasympathetic nervous system). By helping to regulate the alarms of stress, acupuncture is able to help shift nervous function away from crisis and back toward rest and healing.

Through adjusting these stress responses in the nervous system, acupuncture is able to more fully activate the Central Autonomous Network, which is the part of the brain that lives in the present and handles working memory and sensory input. In other words, it helps bring us back to ourselves and cultivate awareness of present moment.

The effects of acupuncture on stress last for longer than the acupuncture session itself. Sessions are a generally relaxing and restorative experience, and the effects of a series of treatments for stress have been shown to last for months afterward. Basically, acupuncture is able to help train the nervous system how to better respond to stress.

Acupuncture is an effective way to manage stress by toning and regulating the nervous system. It addresses the imbalances caused by both acute and chronic stress, helping to move the body and mind out of crisis mode. This creates space and energy for rest, restoration, and health.

Bodywork Restores Your Peace

Bodywork and massage improve our mental health as well as our physical health. Regular sessions have been shown to improve mood after as little as 15 min, and can help treat stress, anxiety, and depression.

The mental health benefits begin with relaxation and sense of peace. From the first moments of your session, your body begins to signal your mind that you are now warm and safe. This allows the nervous system to begin to switch off the alarms of stress. Your breath deepens, heart rate slows, and adrenaline and cortisol levels drop.

When you receive regular bodywork, your body and mind learn how to make these adjustments more easily, so that just walking into the treatment space can begin a cascade of positive emotions and biological responses. This allows treatments to build on each other, which can be especially helpful when treating depression and anxiety. Bodywork releases endorphins like serotonin and dopamine, which in turn helps to improve and regulate mood.

Bodywork utilizes the combination of the healing power of touch with the safety and warmth of an excellent therapist, creating space for emotional healing as well as physical health. It is a wonderful treatment for managing stress, regulating mood, and improving your overall sense of wellbeing.

What is Ashiatsu Bodywork?

Ashiatsu is a technique integrated into most Ha.Lé Bodywork sessions because it is such an effective healing tool. In Japanese, the root wood “ashi” means foot and “atsu” means pressure. Ashiatsu, or “foot pressure”, involves the therapist using her feet as well as her hands during the session.

Controlled foot pressure uses physics of both bodies – therapist and client – for maximum benefit. With feet, the therapist activates acupressure points and spreads tissue fibers, distributing more body weight and pressure than what is available with just the hands and arms. Ashiatsu techniques are especially effective for addressing muscle tension and relieving the symptoms of chronic soft tissue damage. They also help loosen scar tissue adhesions and are a profound way to receive myofascial release.

Sometimes Ashiatsu is misunderstood as a massage where someone walks on your back. In fact, it is much more complex and effective than that. The therapist uses bars and straps above the table to control the exact amount of weight and pressure, giving her excellent control over the depth of treatment. This means that she is able to work as deeply or gently as necessary in order to address your specific needs.

Ashiatsu is a very responsive and personal bodywork technique, and can create a strong bond between therapist and client. This bond increases the client’s comfort level, which makes the session more effective. We also use an Ashiatsu method of sinking into muscle fibers as breath allows, so that the pace and knowledge of our therapist makes the treatments therapeutic, profound, and beneficial.

Ashiatsu Bodywork is a powerful set of techniques that often form the core of our integrative treatments. It works with tissues of the body in deep, powerful ways to reduce pain, release tension, and create health.

Relieving Neck Pain

Our necks are amazing structures that allow us to a great deal of flexibility to see, hear, and smell, even as they are strong enough to protect the spinal column connecting the brain to the rest of the body. As a flexible, nerve-rich body part, they can also be a source of a lot of pain when they develop imbalances. Integrative care can address these imbalances and reduce both long term and short term neck pain.

Bodywork is an effective treatment for neck pain. Muscular tension in the neck, upper back, and shoulders can all cause neck pain, and bodywork is able to effectively release that tension and address any underlying issues with the connective tissue and fascia that may be contributing to chronic discomfort. Neck pain does not always originate in the structures of the neck and shoulders, but can also be caused by foot and gait issues, pelvic issues, low and mid back imbalances, jaw dysfunctions, and more. Whole body treatments are able to address the alignment and structure of all of these, helping to release tension elsewhere in the body in order to improve neck health.

Acupuncture is especially effective for chronic neck pain. When the body is in pain for long periods of time, the nervous system can become imbalanced and oversensitized to the pain signals. This has the effect of turning up the volume of the pain and increasing discomfort. Acupuncture is able to turn the volume back down by regulating the nervous system and addressing the oversensitization.

Movement classes are a great way to address the posture, gait, and tension issues that contribute to neck pain. By building awareness of how we carry ourselves and how we move in gravity, we are able to retrain our movement patterns toward better alignment. Stretching and moving also release long held muscular tension and improve blood flow to distressed tissues, encouraging them to heal.

Neck pain is linked to stress, tension, and structural imbalances in the body. Bodywork, acupuncture, and movement classes are all able to reduce stress levels, release tension, and address imbalances in order to relieve neck pain and support overall wellbeing.

How Cupping Therapy works

Cupping Therapy is a powerful integrative health tool. It works well as a treatment on its own, and also helps boost the effectiveness of other treatments like bodywork and acupuncture.

Muscle Tension: Cupping Therapy involves placing specialized cups on the body to provide negative pressure (upward lift) on the tissues. This helps to open up muscle and tissue, releasing short term and long term muscle tension.

Blood Flow: Cupping Therapy is very effective for bringing blood flow to an area of the body, especially if that area is feeling stagnant, like in the back or the arm. A lot of the pain of muscle tension comes from the fact that the muscle is contracted so hard that it is not able to receive enough blood flow. Specifically drawing blood flow into the tissues helps to relieve the pain of restricted blood flow and encourage repair of damaged tissues.

Myofascial Release: Cupping Therapy helps jump start myofascial release. The negative pressure combined with movement gives a different sensation than other myofascial techniques and helps the muscle reset itself to where it needs to be because the fascia has released. It is a great complement to other techniques and can sometimes create shifts that provide instant relief and allow chronic problems to just fade away.

Cupping therapy also helps improve the flow of qi, move lymph in order to support the immune system, and break up scar tissue. It often leaves marks on the skin where the blood has been drawn to the surface, and these marks generally fade in a few days, though they can last up to a few weeks.

Whether as a stand alone therapy or incorporated into a bodywork or acupuncture session, Cupping Therapy is an effective way to treat pain, muscle tension, and other imbalances. It improves the flow of blood, lymph, and qi, and creates space for health in the body.