Preventing and recovering from severe muscle pain

Most of us have experienced bouts of severe muscle pain, and possibly it was so unnerving you went to the doctor or the Emergency Room.  You many have found something potentially serious, such as a tumor.  But most of the time it is just soft tissue pain.

Sometimes we can identify an accident or activity that contributed to it, and sometimes we can’t.  But at least one or more of these factors will be present:

  1. Mental and/or emotional stress.
  2. Sleep deficiency.
  3. Disruption of regular body chemistry due to illness, medication, or poor diet.
  4. Travel.
  5. A too deep massage can temporarily make it feel worse.
  6. Oh, and did I mention stress?

Never underestimate the power of stress to weaken the body’s ability to adapt and heal. I once had a client develop back pain so severe she had to take sabatical from her job. The cause? Stress.

Getting regular massage gives you a head start on preventing such an episode as well as improving your body awareness.

If you do get pushed over the edge, don’t be hesitant to take Ibuprofen for a day or two. Couple this with an Epson salt bath, Arnica cream and oral Arnica (a homeopathic remedy you can find at any healthy food store.)  A gentle and focused massage is great if you can get an appointment soon.

Whether you can pinpoint an activity that started the pain or not, try to catch it early. Muscle relaxers and opioids are remedies of last resort, with unwanted side effects.

Is it Sciatica?

When you have pain in your back/hip and it is shooting down your leg, you may have sciatica.   Sciatica is typically caused by a  tight muscle or  bulging disc pressing on the sciatic nerve , leading to weakness and pain, tingling, or other abnormal sensations along the length of the sciatic nerve, which extends down the leg.

If one or more of these is true, your problem is “all the nerve.”

1) Your foot feels weak when you flex it.

2) You have to sprint to the bathroom.  (Rare but can be caused by a disc pressing on the nerve.)

3) Pain is worse when you press into the middle of your buttocks with a tennis ball or fist. (This indicates that the piriformis muscle is in spasm or contracture and pressing on the nerve.)  Contrast this with discomfort and tension in the low back muscle – the quadratus lumborum (QL).  This causes local pain and refers to the hip but not down the leg, and the QLsciatica  does not press on the sciatic nerve.

Massage, chiropractic care, and an ongoing movement program can all help with recovery.

(Thanks to Prevention Magazine, March 2016 for the inspiration and much of the information in this article.)

Staying Healthy through the Winter

The best things are the simplest –

1) De-stress … get a massage!

2) Get better sleep – limit evening screen time.

3) Enjoy a variety of stretching and activities that get you moving.

(check out Jessica Smith’s YouTube channel)

4)  Use immune boosting herbs. I rely on Chinese formulation that I get at WAY wellness center.  It is “well” worth the trip to Aspinwall!  I use the anti-viral anti-bacterial tea whenever I feel under the weather. Also the herbal pills Yin Chiao for a sore throat, and Gan Mao Ling for general cold or flu symptoms. There are things you can get at the drugstore that have some value, but I have had great success with these Chinese herbs. The formulations have been refined over thousands of years.

You can’t always avoid catching a cold – but you can really cut down on the severity and speed recovery. And I do not get the flu.

Free Mindfulness Training through CMU study

From Phipps Conservatory newsletter:
Do you want to be less stressed in the new year, but don’t exactly know how? If so, we’re pleased to announce a perfect opportunity for you to learn techniques to help you manage and reduce your stress. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are conducting a study at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes to test a new program for stress reduction and well-being, and they are excited to work with Phipps visitors like you. To be eligible, you must be:
  • age 18 or older,
  • in good mental and physical health, and
  • available for about ten weeks to complete study activities and training.
You will be compensated for participating in this study. For more information, please call 412/268-8761 or email