Back to Basics – Anatomy 101
Dr. Caren Fortin, BHK, DC - Doctor of Chiropractic
I have been out of the school environment for a “few years” but every year at the start of September, it always takes me back to freshly sharpened pencils, a new backpack and excitement to see friends and start learning. So, with that in mind, I thought a little refresher on spinal anatomy would be fitting.
The spine is made up of bones, called vertebrae, that are stacked on top of one another and house the spinal cord. The areas of the spine are as follows:
- Cervical spine (neck) = 7 vertebrae. The main function is to support the head.
- Thoracic spine (midback) = 12 vertebrae. The main function is to protect the heart and lungs. This region also has ribs attached to the front at the sternum and back to the vertebrae, to make up the ribcage.
- Low back (lumber spine) = 5 vertebrae. This region mainly bears the weight of the body.
- Sacrum = 5 fused vertebrae. This area joins the spine to the pelvis.
- Coccyx (tail bone) = 4 fused vertebrae. These provide ligament attachment of the pelvic floor.
In between the vertebrae are little cushions called intervertebral discs. They are similar to a tire on the outside with a nucleus of gel in the middle. As we age, the discs become a little less forgiving and become flatter. Repetitive stress and strain on the spine can cause injury to the discs. Terms such as disc bugle or disc herniation are used to describe such injuries, where the gel of the disc finds its way towards the outer rim, causing pain and sometimes numbness or tingling in the leg if a nerve has been affected.
The bony connections between the vertebrae in the spine are called facet joints. Each vertebrae joins with the one above it and below it, with a joint on each side, making for four joints per vertebra. The movement resulting from these joints allows for all the twisting, turning and bending that our bodies are able to achieve.
The spinal cord is the super highway of information to and from the brain to the rest of the body. It is housed in the spine and protected by the bony vertebrae. The brain sends movement messages to the body and the brain receives messages from the body about everything we see, touch and feel. The spinal cord sends out branches of nerves, called spinal nerves, at each vertebral level. The nerves carry sensory and motor information and supply or innervate specific areas of the body. They can be mapped out on the body as a guide and if there is pain, numbness or weakness for example, a doctor can trace which area of the spine it may be coming from.
Ligaments are large, fibrous bands that join bone to bone, protect the discs and stabilize the spine by limiting excessive movement. There are three main ligaments in the spine that run the length of it.
On a last note, muscles are one of the areas not covered in our anatomy lesson. This is purposeful as there are so many muscles that it would take all day to name them! But, if you would like to chat further about muscles in the back, or have questions that you would like answered, feel free to ask Dr. Tara or myself, Dr. Caren. One of us can be reached at Wellness for The Body 6 days a week at 905.465.4595.
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Principles of Deep Tissue Massage
Hong Shen, RMT - Registered Massage Therapist
In reality, the line between a relaxation-oriented massage and deep tissue work is not so clear. Even a gentle massage can be made more beneficial by including deep work and a good deep tissue massage should include considerable time spent on relaxing and nurturing strokes.
Deep tissue and deep pressure massage is sometimes confused. Below describes the elements of deep tissue that I focus on in a treatment, so there have a clearier understaning moving forward.
Use Little Oil
Oil or lotion is necessary to prevent skin friction. However, too much lubricant dissipates energy at the layer of the skin rather than at the depth where the massage therapist is trying to work, requiring them to waste their energy. Lotions are usually less slippery than oils and allow them to more easily grab tissue without applying too much pressure.
Working deeply requires a relationship between the speed of stroke and the depth of work. The more deeply your massage therapist works or the greater the resistance of the muscles to relaxing, the more slowly they must work. Have a clear intention of what you want to accomplish. Your massage therapist should evaluate you visually, by palpation, and by asking questions to determine the major areas where tension is held. The therapist is then able to direct attention to the layer of the body at which they want to work and continue at that layer. The nerve system is sensitive to the depths of stimulation it receives. The therapist will slowly sink to the layer where they intend to work, continue working at that layer and then slowly withdraw. They will then let the body react and stabilize before moving on.
Work Tendinous Insertion of Muscles in Addition to Working the Belly of Muscles
Often the stress of overworked or chronically short and inflexible muscles manifests itself at the attachment of the tendon to the bone. Softening the tendon and stimulating the stretch receptors (Golgi tendon organs) is important to effect a relaxation of the muscles. This is particularly important with long muscles such as the hamstrings. Working the insertion may relax the muscle enough that less time will be needed with meticulous work on the belly of the muscle.
Put Muscles Into a Stretched Position to Effect a Release
The majority of problems we encounter are a result of short, contracted muscles. Most massage therapists are often hesitant to move limbs or reposition clients for fear of disturbing the state of relaxation. However, if a tight muscle is placed in an easy stretch near its end range, when the muscle relaxes, it will lengthen. For example, extending the elbow to stretch the biceps while they are working would actually lengthen the muscle.
Don't Use Thumbs for Any Deep Work
The thumbs are too important a tool in general massage to be exhausted or injured performing deep work. Therapists will use knuckles, fists or even elbows which will feel as comfortable and effective as thumbs.
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