Monday, August 25, 2014

Does That Hurt..? Your 5-Step Injury Prevention Plan

Doing what I do, massage specializing in pain relief, I mostly see clients "after" they have encountered some type of trauma that causes physical pain. Most of them are athletic, some are weekend warrior types, and some are desk jockeys. That said, the best pain management plan is the one that includes a "preventative" program, and that's what I will be giving you here.

Injuries don't have to slow you from meeting your fitness goals or keep you from enjoying your daily activities. The following 5 steps that I have outlined below will dramatically reduce your chance of experiencing a pain causing injury and if you do find yourself injured, but have been following these 5 steps, your recovery will be quick and efficient.

Step 1: Stretch
What is more boring than stretching? You have stuff to do; work to finish, meetings to attend, cooking, cleaning, exercise! The last thing you want to do is to sit around touching your toes -- right?

Well, even though it isn't exciting, stretching is the best way to increase muscle elasticity and durability. Tight muscles are big contributors to strains -- remember? The older we get, the less flexible we become which leaves our muscles, tendons and ligaments wide open for injury and strain. Take the time to stretch every day at your desk, in the shower, and before/after your workout to stave off injury.

Step 2: Warm Up
If you are preparing to do any physical activity like working out, remember that your warm-up should not begin and end with putting on your gym clothes. Your muscles need to be coaxed into motion by way of a 10-15 minute warm up in order to prepare them for injury-free use. Cold muscles are less elastic and are therefore more prone to tears.

Step 3: Proper Gear
For most fitness enthusiasts proper gear has everything to do with their shoes. But don't be fooled -- not just any shoe will do. Find shoes that offer support and traction for your activity of choice, and make sure that they aren't too tight or too loose. If you are prone to ankle injuries then try a pair of high-tops for extra support.

Step 4: Lifestyle
Stop for a moment and think about your car -- if you don't maintain it with regular tune ups, oil changes and quality fuel then you can't expect it to perform well on the road. Treat your car poorly and sooner or later it will leave you high and dry at the most inconvenient time. The same applies to your body. Getting healthy amounts of sleep, eating well balanced meals, staying hydrated and getting regularly scheduled massage therapy will all contribute to your ability to live injury free. Simply put: The healthier your lifestyle is the less likely you are to suffer an injury.

Step 5: Condition
This may seem like the most obvious step to injury prevention, but unfortunately it is the most overlooked. Believe it or not; People who keep their bodies in top condition by exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are the least likely to injure themselves. That's right. It's when people randomly exercise in an inconsistent manner. When exercise programs are started and stopped sporadically that your muscles are most likely to become injured.

Of course being conditioned also has another great benefit that everyone enjoys - you get to look and feel great! And who doesn't want that, right?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Reducing Stress and Boosting Well-Being with Massage

Few people know that therapeutic massage has been used for stress and pain relief around the world throughout the ages. As long ago as the 5th century Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, wrote, "the physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly also in rubbing."

Bringing it into modern day, studies such as the one conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School, have demonstrated that massage is extraordinary in its ability to reduce the effects of stress and promote well-being.

Therapeutic massage has become well known as one of the best ways to deal with the overload of stress so common in today's world. And because we live in a 24/7, go-go-go-world, we must face the facts - stress overload is inevitable.

Therapeutic massage can give you a break from the buildup of stress and trigger the "relaxation response," a natural function of the nervous system that reverses the effects of excess stress. It can provide relief from chronic headaches, reduce anxiety, and promote more restful sleep, all conditions associated with an overload of stress.

Massage improves circulation, promotes healing
One of the key benefits of therapeutic massage is improved circulation. Good circulation is essential to bring oxygen and nutrients to healing tissues and remove irritating waste products. This, in turn, can help decrease inflammation and pain from injuries or overdoing it at work or play. Massage also increases circulation to the joints, improving their function and mobility.

Massage increases awareness of mind and body
Massage therapy can help increase awareness and sensitivity to the body's signals. As you get to know your body with massage you may be better able to listen to your need to take breaks at work or stretch after exercising. Increased awareness may even inspire you to spend more time doing the things you love, like painting, gardening or hiking.

Respond to stress with grace and balance; book your massage today.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Can Cherries Cure Pain?

As with most things in life, there is no single “magic bullet” supplement or medication that will provide you with perfect results. I personally believe the best defense against chronic pain and inflammation is to have an arsenal of tools and therapies at our disposal to protect yourself against the destructive repercussions chronic pain can bring.

With millions of Americans looking for ways to naturally manage pain, I think it's promising that tart cherries can help, without the possible side effects often associated with many current pain and arthritis medications.

How Much?
Most of the studies I refer to specifically investigated the impact of Montmorency cherries on systemic inflammatory and oxidative stress. Rather than consume whole cherries (something I would prefer over juice), participants were given two daily doses (about 1 oz. each) of tart cherry juice concentrate. This amount was considered to significantly lower levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), (both associated with triggering the body’s inflammatory response) compared to those who received the placebo.

You can opt to eat the cherries instead of drinking the juice, but just so you know, it takes about 100 cherries to equal 1oz. of juice. However, the juice will be void of fiber (another beneficial component to anti inflammation).

Studies like this offer further support for the need to consume a wide and varied array of antioxidant rich foods, such as cherries, in order to potentially reduce inflammation and have the potential to lower our overall risk of disease.

Previous research on tart cherries and osteoarthritis conducted by researchers at Baylor Research Institute found that a daily dose of tart cherries (as cherry extract) helped reduce osteoarthritis pain by more than 20 percent for the majority of men and women. And the same compounds linked to cherries' arthritis benefits have now shown promise for athletes and sports recovery to help relieve muscle and joint soreness.

Click Here: For more information on the Montmorency Cherries Study.

In the meantime, I'm encouraged by the potential for a real food to offer such a powerful anti-inflammatory benefit – at levels comparable to some well-known pain medications, but with minimal to no side effects at all.

So my take away is “Go Red Instead” to manage chronic pain, and be sure to include a combination of therapies including exercise, flexibility and massage therapy. You’ll be glad you did.

Listen to your body,

John Aaron Villarreal



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Holy Jet-lag! I Hurt!

I guess you could say I'm kind of like the postman in that neither rain, nor Houston heat, nor gloom of airport customs agents, nor the winds of change, nor patience challenged, will stay me from my appointed rounds of cherished clients and friends. Ever.

That said, I'll have to admit - it was a tough and looong flight back! LOL! 

But - I'm here! Not without some injury, though... it's just a tight lower back. Nothing a little stretching and a decent massage couldn't fix.

Just know this; no matter how "comfortable" the airlines say you will be, unless you're in first class, don't believe'em.

The cramped and crowded confinement of flying coach is enough to make you ache both in body and mind. Good thing there is a technique I've been experimenting with: meditation.

Now, before you start thinking I'm going all zen, hippie, peyote, touchy-feely on you, let me clarify. You don't have to be a flower child, nun, priest or monk to practice meditation. Meditation is nothing more than taking deliberate actions to calm the mind... That's it.

For example, I want you to take a moment right now to breathe deeply and slowly. Put your hand on your belly and feel it rise and fall. Focus on nothing but the rise and fall of your breathing. It's tough to ignore your surroundings; that's why this technique requires deliberate and consistent practice.  But I believe in you. You can do this.

If you've been experiencing physical pain or emotional stress, after a few minutes of deep breathing, you may feel some pain and tension just melt away. The more you practice, the more relief you will experience.

What's great about deep breathing as a stress and pain management technique is that you can do it anytime and anywhere -- when you're stuck in a Houston traffic jam, or at your desk, or even in the unbelievably "tiny" seat of a transatlantic flight... ;-)


“Listen to your Body”

John Aaron
massage therapist | health coach

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pain Relief through Diet Changes

Today I am in very good spirit. Why? Because today I'm on a river boat cruising the beautiful Rhine river.

Although I've been just a touch homesick, I've had a wonderful time wandering through Strasbourg, France and Heidelberg, Germany. Tomorrow I'll be in Cologne. Needless to say, but the scenery has been beautiful. The food & wine? Fantastic! (Don't worry. I haven't gained too much weight. I think... ;-)

There is one thing I've discovered, though; sweet wines (like German Riesling) almost instantaneously give me a headache. And before you start judging me: No, I haven't been drinking more than a glass of it. LOL!

However, since pain management is my business, I began to wonder: Could food be affecting your pain, too? It's possible.

People with migraines often find that specific foods -- like red wine and cheeses -- trigger attacks. There's even some studies that suggest consuming fatty meats or milk may worsen the pain of inflammatory arthritis. It's something to seriously think about if you suffer from any type of chronic pain.

Pain is elusive -- it can mysteriously appear from one day to the next and you might never have thought it to be a result of something you consumed. Instead, you may have written it off to just getting older.

If you suspect your diet may be triggering your own flare ups of pain I suggest keeping a food diary for a few weeks to see whether any foods seem to increase your pain. If you think certain foods might be triggers, cut them out and see if your symptoms get better.

After a few weeks, you'll have a valuable record to share with your doctor, or with me at your next massage visit. Which, by the way, I'll start taking appointments on Monday, August 4th - and I look forward to seeing you again soon.


“Listen to your Body”

John Aaron
massage therapist | health coach