Monthly Archives: February 2009

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

wrist1What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? Well to start with, carpals are the bones in your wrist and there is a tunnel in your wrist where the median nerve runs from your arm to your hand. If the tunnel narrows due to swelling, muscle tightness or misalignment (like a wrist fracture) the nerve becomes squeezed. This leads to the numbness, burning sensation, tingling or weakness symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

How do you know if you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? There is a fairly simple test your doctor can perform to help determine weather or not you have it called Tinnels. No needles, no big machine capsules to lie in, just a tap of the wrist.

So now the big question is can massage therapy help alleviate the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? You betcha, or else it would not be a topic on this blog. Massage therapy can relieve the muscle tightness and swelling that aggravates Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. One way massage can help is to loosen the flexors and extensors in the forearm. Also, the body sometimes winds inward at the wrist up the arm into the shoulders, neck and chest due to poor posture or frequent misuse. This can add to the cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Massage with the intention to unwind all of that works wonders.

Stretching the effected muscles can also help. Ask your massage therapist or doctor for some stretching suggestions.

Some people have found wearing a wrist brace a night while they sleep can help with their symptoms. The brace keeps you from curving your wrist inward and pinching off that median nerve. Some folks find it helpful to wear a brace while at the computer to keep the wrist supported. Make sure your wrists are nice and straight when you are at your computer.

Strengthening the wrist can make a big difference. Rotating your wrist both directions 10 times every hour and/or squeezing some silly puddy or a rubber ball is a quick way to get the job done.

Last but not least, there is icing. Icing will help decrease the swelling. You can ice your wrist for up to 10 minutes with an hour in between icing. The more often you ice the better.  For a detailed post on icing injuries click here.

If you have any questions about massage or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome you can contact me at info@pjharris.comor feel free to leave a comment or question in the comment section. Thank you for reading, PJ Harris, LMP.


Benefits of Yoga

yoga-4Many of the clients coming to my Seattle treatment massage practice suffer from a lack of flexibility and/or a lack of strength in their muscles. I believe these issues are often the ultimate cause of their pain. One of the most effective ways to increase your strength and flexibility is with yoga.

Yoga is an ancient form of movement developed by yogis to support their bodies while they sit and meditate for hours on end. Do you sit for hours on end? At least you probably have a chair back.

Some of the benefits of yoga are as follows:

Yoga offers a gentle way to build strong healthy muscles with a lower risk of injury than most types of strengthening exercises. This gentle build offers a full body muscle balance that is, in my opinion, second to none. This can make you strong enough to withstand the stress of a modern body.

I don’t know of a more effective activity for flexibility than Yoga. Except for a circus performer, who is more flexible than a person that practices yoga. A flexible body has less chance of injury, increased efficiency and greater capacity for relaxation.

Body Awareness
Many people’s main focus in their lives is outward. This can increase their occurrence of injury because they are not fully aware of where there body is and what it is up to. They might injure themselves and have no idea how it happened. Body awareness is an important step to having a injury free life. Yoga increases body awareness and balance.

As stated in my previous post on the breath, the practice of deepening and focusing on your breath is a most powerful relaxation tool. Most of us breathe shallow and yoga teaches us to breathe deep, clear our nasal passages and calm our nervous system.

Mind Calming
When we are focusing on our bodies and our breath the mind naturally calms itself. We are more present to the now and less focused on our worries as we enjoy the movement of our bodies.

Better breathing practices and increase in movement are key ways to improve your circulation. The different angles that yoga puts your body in work wonders with relieving and improving the strength of your blood and lymph vessels.

Yoga Journal has a pretty decent yoga studio search directory. Click this link and scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Thanks for reading. I would love to hear about anyone’s experience with yoga in the comments section. PJ Harris, LMP

Melt Away Your Worries

Last weeks post about relaxation has inspired me to continue in the same vein. Especially during the cold winter months, a nice soak at my local spa is one of my favorite ways to unwind and thaw. In the Greater Seattle area I have a few personal spa favorites I’d like to share with you. These spas all have something in common that I especially appreciate: Hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms. Here are my top three (two are women only, one is co-ed):


Hot House Women’s Spa
This little gem is located on Captitol Hill. As the name states, it is a women only spa. Hot House offers great amenities like steam room, sauna, cold plunge, showers, relaxation area, heated floors, and filtered water. The current price is hard to beat at just $12 for use of the whole facility. If you have extra cash, you can even book yourself a massage.

Olympus Spa
If you ever speak to a woman who has been to this spa, you will hear comments like: “You have to go there,'”It is so amazing” and “I love that place.” This spa is a traditional Korean spa. They have  therapeutic whirlpools, radiant energy rooms, a mugwort steam sauna and herbal dry sauna. The restaurant has great Korean food. Not included in the entrance fee is their legendary skin scrubs. I highly recommend you have one of these!  There are 2 locations: Lynnwood and Tacoma.

Banya 5 
Sorry dudes, this is the only co-ed spa on my list. This is a Russian spa with amenities that will knock your socks off. Actually it will knock everything off but a bathing suit. Banya 5 is the only spa on the list that requires you wear a suit. They have a banya (200-220 degree sauna), hot tub, warm pool, cold plunge pool and a steam room. My husband and I love to go here on date night. Located in downtown Seattle.

Now you have heard some of my favorite spa spots. Write a comment and let’s here what you think of these places, if you have been there, or better yet lets here about some places not listed. Thanks for reading, PJ Harris, LMP

10 quick ways to relax in the middle of your work day

In this post, I’m going to list some simple and quick ways you can create relaxation in your work day. Since I am coming from a massage therapist’s perspective, I promise many muscle relaxing stretches in this list. As always, check with your doctor before performing any exercises or stretches. Enjoy!
1. Take a moment to just sit and breathe. There are many breathing suggestions in a previous post on this blog. Breathe!
2. Neck pain can get in the way of relaxing. One way to relax the back of your neck is to give the front of your neck some slack. You probably spend a lot (if not all) of your day with your head forward of your shoulders. This stretch will help counteract that poor posture and relax your neck. Two images below illustrate how to do this stretch. Pressing on the center of the chest with your hands and tilting your head back gently, give the front of your neck and upper chest a nice stretch. Breathe and hold stretch for at least 20 seconds. Pressing on the upper side of your chest and tilting your head back and angled to the opposite side will give the front sides of your neck and chest a nice stretch. Again, breathe and hold stretch for at least 20 seconds. Remember to also stretch the other side.









 Upper Chest Stretch 2

3. Make sure you stop to refuel with a nice healthy snack. Some people get so busy, they don’t even remember to eat. To help keep your stress at a minimum, your body and brain needs nutrition. Don’t do anything else when you eat your snack. Fully enjoy those vitamins and minerals.

4. On their jobs, most people I know spend a lot of time with their arms in front of them. They are doing things like writing, computing, or maybe even driving? This is a great way to relieve that pain or tension that happens between your shoulder blades when you work with your arms in front of you. To do this stretch, you can grab a wall or door frame, keeping your arm straight and twist away from your hand. Breathe and hold stretch for at least 20 seconds. Make sure to stretch both sides.

 Chest Stretch
5. Think about things you are grateful for. When you are feeling grateful anxiety just melts.
6. Many jobs require sitting for long periods. If your job is one of these, then this is a great stretch for you. This stretch helps relax the hip flexors that are short for long periods of sitting. Relaxing the hip flexors can help decrease low back pain. To accomplish this stretch, you start by getting down on one leg like you are going to propose to someone, create a distance between both legs as far as you are comfortable with, and lean into your front leg. You may put your hands on the front thigh or a wall or chair to balance yourself. Make sure that your front knee does not go over your foot. Breathe and hold stretch for at least 20 seconds.
Hip Stretch
7. Take a walk. A nice short 5 or 10 minute walk to clear your head and lungs is so refreshing. Walks relieve stress as you work out the stiffness in stagnant muscles.
8. To help decrease stress in your shoulders and the sides of your neck, there is a very simple stretch you can do right there in your chair. Put your feet flat on the floor, grab the underside of your chair seat, and slowly tilt your head to the side. Breathe and hold stretch for at least 20 seconds. Again, remember to stretch both sides.
Shoulder Stretch  
9. Sometimes people feel stressed because they are overwhelmed. Make a list of what you have to do and prioritize it. Be realistic with your expectations of what you can accomplish. The world is much better off if you are not stressed than if you get everything done on that to do list.
10. The last one on this list is to make sure you drink plenty of water. Nothing can fry your brain and make you more frazzled than being dehydrated.
Thanks for reading my post. I hope you have a relaxing day. PJ Harris, LMP