Back pain – The Quadratus Lumborum muscle and its trigger points

Last week, I experienced some terrible stomach and back pain that lasted for 10 days. No doctors could find what it was. We all thought it was the gall bladder or the kidneys but my results were great and I eat so healthy that I couldn’t possibly avoid to eat even less fat than I already do. So after being in pain for so long I tuned in to myself and started looking on-line for answers. And it’s when it hit me – I should know better as a massage therapist – it is in fact my QL that’s so tight that it’s causing me terrible pain, pain that so intense that it is pulsating and radiating in my entire abdomen! I massaged myself with a tennis ball and found these very nasty sore spot (trigger points) where I applied more pressure while rolling gently on the ball. And OMG what a pain I experienced! But it was that ‘good pain’, when you know you are right and that somehow the pressure release so many years of tight muscles. It was an amazing learning curve for me: go back in myself and heal myself with an open-mind. I was in so much pain and because it was located in the abdomen mostly I thought it was something completely different than an inflamed trigger point!

    QL

The QL muscle is renowned for being the prime cause of lower back pain. He brings the hips up and is important for balancing postural distortion. It is located deep into the abdomen and runs from the iliac crest to the 12th rib. It is close to many structures such as the kidneys, the colon and the diaphragm, as well as nerves, abdominal muscles and the spine. Needless to say that if this muscle doesn’t work properly, a lot of problems could occur.

This muscle acts as a prime mover, a postural muscle and a respiratory muscle. Some people with back pain also experience discomfort when breathing because a cranky QL resists elevation of the rib cage, and cramps up when pulling it down firmly on exhalation. Imagine the sense of relief when this is resolved!

Overuse and strain of the quadratus lumborum are one of the major causes for chronic pain in the lower back. One typical cause is the habit of sitting at the desk using a reclined seat, which releases the intrinsic back muscles and weakens them in the long term. The weak back muscles must now be compensated by the quadratus lumborum leading to painful tension and stiffening of the muscle. Other causes can be direct damage or any type of imbalance of the pelvis or spine which forces the quadratus lumborum to stabilize them. An example of that type of imbalance is unequal leg lengths.

If the gluteal muscle is weakened or overused (particularly the gluteus medius), the QL will be excessively recruited in order to stabilize the pelvis. That is one of my weakest point: after carrying two babies and running, my glute muscles are just constantly sore. I experience pain in the hips sometime and massaging those areas is extremely painful. It is a good sign that my QL is being put under a lot of strain already… so working on those weak areas will relieve, eventually, some of the pressure put on my QL.

Very often, one side of our body is weaker. On that side, having problems with the QL will most likely lead to chronic pain and tensions in the mid and upper back and in time it will affect further down the kinetic chain (i.e. hip, knee, shoulder, neck and head). Other causes of problems can be accidents, shorter leg, overuse or poor posture.

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In these pictures, you can see the trigger points (X) and the related areas of pain (in red)

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You can release the trigger points of the QL as I mentioned above: by using a tennis ball. I do it on the floor but you can do it by leaning onto the wall. Locate the area by by finding the bottom rib and then going just beneath it, pushing down, in and 45d upwards. Roll the ball over this area until you find an area of tenderness. Trust me, you’ll know when you are there! Hold there for about 20s and do this as much as you can, up to 10 times a day. It won’t release straight away so keep on doing it. Once you feel amazing and that something as changed, you know you have done something good for you!

You can too, off course, book a massage with me. It is always better as I can really assess the problems you are experiencing and work on a deeper level in related areas as well.

Always do a gentle stretch afterwards, as seen on the pictures below.

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Take care of your back, it works so hard for you, days and nights!

 

How to be happy?

Are you happy?

That question is more and more often asked and to be honest, I find it pretty hard to answer it…

Yes off course, I am happy. I have everything I need and a bit more too. But having my basics needs fulfilled doesn’t prevent me from wanting more. And there is the trick: if I constantly look for what I don’t have, I will certainly not be a happy person. Instead, stop over-thinking my life and live in the present moment have proven successful ways of keeping me happy.

I read an article a couple of weeks ago that was exactly talking about happiness. I wanted to resume it and share it with you as it talks about a big survey that has been done to see what actually makes people happy. Here is what they found:

1. They surround themselves with happy people. We all know that, don’t we? Spending an afternoon with a highly depressed friend doesn’t really make you happy… Saying that, it doesn’t mean that we have to avoid our friends and family members when they are going through a hard time… it is more about choosing to surround ourselves with generally happy people who can uplift you instead of dragging us down.

2. They smile when they mean it! No much to say about that, a smile is contagious and a face looks a lot more attractive when enlightened by a smile. But smiling when you don’t mean it could actually make your mood worse…

3. They cultivate resilience. Well, that’s a big quality to have really… knowing that you grow from failure and mistakes will stop depression instantly. Why being negative when you know that you grow from making mistakes?

4. They try to be happy. Apparently, the study showed that people who genuinely look for happiness and want to be happy are more likely to feel joy and happiness in their lives than people who just sit down and expect happiness to arrive on its own.

5. They are mindful of the good. Always look at what you have, and never at what you don’t have.

6.They devote so of their time to giving. And that’s why I love New Zealand! Here, people know what charity and voluntary work means. So find something to do to help others, that will make you feel so good!

7.They appreciate simple pleasure. A beautiful Tui singing in the trees out the window, your kid playing silly or the sight of the see… All this little -and free- pleasures have to be noticed sometimes. Because life is full of them and being conscious of all these beautiful moments actually lifts up your mood.

8. They promote deeper conversations over small talk. That is well said, small talk takes a lot of energy and gossiping is nothing but bad really… I know, it’s so hard to avoid it but believe me on that one, once you stop gossiping and doing small talks most of your time, you’ll have a clearer mind and a more positive attitude. Moreover, deeper conversation brings you closer to your friends and family.

9. They spend money on others. Now that’s the one to think about as the end of the year is coming! Spoiling the ones you love is the best way, to me, to make me feel good… But don’t forget to spoil yourself too every now and then, that will make you feel good too!

10. They unplugged. Turn all your tv – ipads – phones off and talk to the person sitting next to you or read a book, meditate or whatever really but stop spending time in front of a screen so much (that one is for my hubby;-)

11. They exercise. We all know it, so just get out there, move your lovely behind from the sofa and make it move like never before!

12. They get spiritual. What ever it is, find a ‘spiritual’ practice ti include in your life. It could be belonging to a religion, meditating, doing some personal development course or anything else that looks into awakening that amazing soul that we all have within.

13. They listen to music. When I am alone in my car, I put my music on and sing as loudly as I can, and off course I ‘dance’ in the car. I used to think that my mum was ridiculous doing that back then but now that I am in her shoes I can definitely see the point! Alone! With MY music! And who gives a *** about what people think when I wait for the light to turn green!?! Well, I am happy as and they might even see it and that will makes them smile, then I will have done something good for someone else, so that will make me even happier;-)

 

Do you see that everything is linked? Be social, be present, look at the bright side and look after yourself!

Now, I have to go and pick up my girls from preschool… and YES, I am going to listen to Amy Mac Donald and sing like crazy in the car (maybe not dance while driving on the motorway though…)

Happy day to you!

What is myofascial release???

I absolutely love myofascial release. It brings an amazing feeling of openness to the body, works incredibly well for all sorts of injuries and tight areas and is the best way to work on a deep level without causing any pain to the client. But wait, what exactly is a fascia?

Here after you can see an illustration of the thoraculumbar fascia. It’s huge right? What if by working on those fascias we could get rid of lower back pain? You can see that this huge diamond shape is directly linked to the IT band… if those fascias get tight, it’s just going to affect everything else… and look up on this picture, all those white areas represent superficial fascias… Our head is just one big fascia! So what about headaches? You can see that they are all connected. Let me guess know: I’m absolutely sure that every single person experiences tightness and pain in at least one of these areas; so if left untreated over a long period of time, the pain is just going to spread from one area to the other until you loose motion range, you get injuries and other painful problems. So take action!

A fascia wraps around each of your individual internal parts, keeping them separate and allowing them to slide easily with your movements. It’s strong, slippery and wet. It creates a sheath around each muscle; because it’s stiffer, it resists over-stretching and acts like an anatomical emergency break. It connects your organs to your ribs to your muscles and all your bones to each other

If you want to imagine how it looks like, think about an orange. It is that white skin that you can find just under the actual orange’s skin and before the actual edible part. Without that white skin, there would be no orange. Without fascias, we would only be a big blob…

Fascias are connective tissues, just like ligaments and tendons. Tendons link the muscles to the bones, ligaments joint one bone to the other and fascias surrounds muscles or other structures. They allow them to move smoothly and to work properly.

If the fascia stops working as it should, then the muscles loose their flexibility and become tight too. It is the perfect way of preparing the body for further injuries… So how do I keep my fascias healthy?

  1. Move – if you don’t regularly move, sticky adhesions will form between fascial surfaces and over time these adhesions will get strong enough to inhibit a range of motions. So strecth every now and then, stand up and quickly walk around, take the stairs and use every opportunity to move your dear behind;-)
  2. Drink – fascias are made out of water, so keep on drinking water, it’s just good for everything!
  3. Stretch your muscles – good, real, long stretches are needed to avoid tightening of fascias. If left unstreched for long period of times, the fascias will become rigid, compressing the muscles and nerves. You have to stretch gently, not pull like crazy on your toes to pretend you are flexible and that you can do it. That way you will certainly injure yourself! No, stretch gently for longer period of time, to allow the fascia to open properly you should hold the stretch for 3 to 5 minutes. Think about going to a yoga class!
  4. Relax – if you are stressed all day at your desk it’s the recipe for tight fascias, and much more problems really. So learn to relax, breath, take a step back and gain some perspective: work will be work but your body is unique and so are you; so learn to relax!
  5. Know your body -and look after it. Like our car, our bodies should be having a check every couple of weeks/months to make sure that everything works as it should. Walk, dance, stretch and eat healthy and simple food. Practising a sport is great but be careful of over-doing it, Kiwis love to push themselves hard! Running is great but not if you have lower back problems or knee problems. If you want to run, then get better first by seeing a specialist that will help you recover fully before starting – gently – to run again. It’s like that for any other sport. Your fascias, and muscles need to fully recover before working properly again. So chill out if you have to and look after yourself!
  6. Get a massage with a myofascial release specialist – If you have a nagging injury or you just have been feeling bad lately, book a massage, you’ll be amazed by all the things you’ll learn about yourself and how amazing you’ll feel after taking that time just for you!

 

 

How to feel alive?

After my run in the muddy forest today I felt just amazing. But I wanted to go further, really how did I feel and why? I know, we all know, that we are alive right… if you’re not sure just pinch yourself… yes, you are not dreaming! So if I am alive, why don’t I feel ‘alive’ most of the time? Is it the every day routine that takes over our passion to submerge us in a boring-yet-must-be scheduled and stressed life? Or maybe it’s just society’s fault right, because we have not much choice when it comes to this: we all have to work pretty hard just to be able to pay the bills. And then off course there is a better (or sometimes worse) half that wants attention and then our darling angels, this delightful creatures that make our lives rather frantic (that always hit me when I can’t call a friend just because my 2 year old has decided that she doesn’t want me to, knowing that she can scream louder than me;-). So that’s it I thought: it’s just the way our society works: it makes my life so busy with stuff to do that I don’t really feel alive…

But now what? This is not what I want! I don’t want to feel numb or brain-dead! Do you?

So let’s see what we can do about it…

1. Realize that yes, we are not dreaming this life… we are living it every single minute. The first step is always the most important as it wakes us up from that passive state!

2. If we are not dreaming this life then it means that we are alive

3. If we are alive then let’s feel like we are crazy alive! What’s crazy alive to you? For me it’s when I have many ideas flowing in, so many wishes, so much creation inside me. I want to sing and dance as well (but I refrain to do so in public because I don’t want people to think I am a weirdo)

4. Let’s think for a moment of what makes you feel alive ->amazing, great, wonderful, so happy with ourselves and all that and even more! For example, do you like to go out in nature? That’s always very empowering. Or maybe you like to practice a sport? Or do some crafts? Or hang out with your mate and do great things together?

5. Realize what makes you feel alive, what gives you that thrill of “yes, I just loved what I have been doing and now I feel just so amazing I can’t wait to do it again” (omg did you just think as well about sex? that’s a great way to feel alive… but we all knew that right;-)

6. Now that you know just do this: DO IT. That’s it, no excuses, do what makes you feel alive. We can all find 15 min a day or one hour a week to do what we want, just for ourselves. And if it means that the man and the darling angels will have to do without wonder woman for an hour well, they won’t die. But we will feel on top of the world for days and they will rip off the benefits as well! Who doesn’t want to see a happy face?

Well… that was my ‘big moment’ today… let’s not over-think this all right;-) just do something for yourself because in the end, you are the most important person in your world; if you don’t function, people around you won’t either…

And off course, a massage is always a great option to feel deeply alive, you know where to find me;-)

The last month has been such a busy time of my life. You know, when you have had so many ideas and dreams for so long but no ways of being able to make anything happen because life has just decided to teach you patience and then everything happens at the same time and it seems that time as strangely disappeared and you are now faced with having to do a hundred things all at once (adding a husband and kids to the business issue doesn’t help with time management).But having to take time has actually been a great learning tool. Learn patience, the mother of all virtue, is a long-life skill that brings us closer to becoming a wise person; and who doesn’t want to be wiser;-) But then, contemplating our dreams allows to create even more. So many ideas have emerged when I had to be in ‘career-sleeping-mode’, so much determination of making Sublimity reopen in Wellington have proven to be a powerful business tool.
Now that I have eventually been able to create my beautiful room, I am feeling proud of myself but there is this ‘omg it’s finally happened’ feeling that just makes me want to scream my happiness out loud and sing all day (preferably not in public, I would scare off my potential clients).

So one of the many ideas I had was to create a newsletter to connect my clients, share ideas and help you get the best deals. I will make as well videos about good streches you can do at home to speed up recovery and prevent injuries, or about healthy life style tips and tricks. I’ll write articles on my blog too and will keep my Facebook page active and lively. They are so many things to share and so much to learn from one an other that I would be extremely happy to hear from you and share with you!

To receive my newsletter and learn more about amazing deals, and much more, just go on my webpage and click on ‘newsletter’ you just need to enter your email address, it takes 2 minutes and it’s free!

 

Waiting room   Massage room

Opening!!!

J-8 until opening day!!! After buying our dream house (it has a stunning view on the harbour and CBD), I have been able to get to work and make Sublimity’s reopening a reality. The room is eventually starting to look like something and every time I add a little touch it is just so perfect and fits really nicely in the decor! I still need to work though and, amongst other things, put the great wooden flooring that I have just bought with my hubby in the biggest Mitre 10 Mega ever (in Petone). What an amazing shop – it even has a playground inside for the kids! I have to bring back that idea to Belgium, Kiwis certainly know how to make families happy and willing to spend (hubby was very silent when he had to give his credit card at the cashier though… he might not thing that the playground was such a good idea as it gave me  too much time to look around… hehe)! Anyway, I am loosing track of the subject: in 8 days, I want to be open and have my first clients! I wonder how’s going to be my very first client… I might have a little surprise for her/him! Yipeee I am going to work again and I am loving that idea!

Recharge your batteries – Yoga retreat

This last weekend I organized a yoga retreat with Ani, a great friend and amazing yoga teacher and ayurvedic healer. It went so well that we are already planning more retreats! We had great students I have to admit, who basically created the atmosphere just by their beautiful presence and amazing spirit. We were very lucky, again, to teach to so many amazing beings. Thanks you all for being there! The retreat has not only helped us to ‘recharge our batteries’ at a time of the year when our bodies and mind are falling into a hibernating process (as following nature’s rhythm) but it has shown me as well that the path I have chosen of teaching, organizing events around yoga and self-development and bringing people together is the right path for me, the one that fulfills my aim in life. Doing what you like and having people join you on your journey does not only enrich your soul and gives you a life purpose but it as well bring like-minded people together who learn greatly from each other, can share laughter, emotions, experiences and ideas in a community that understands them deeply. How enriching it was to do the retreat!

The next retreat Ani and myself will organize is most likely going to be at the end of October or early November, as Ani is going back to India for 3 months to finish her studies on Ayurveda. I can’t wait for her to share all that she has learned there! The retreat will be around having a great ‘spring clean for your body’, to get ready for the beautiful season (hard to conceive when winter is starting to hit us with some nice minus on the thermometer;-). That retreat will happen again in the beautiful Hanmer Springs. But I can already tell you that we will as well organize retreats in Wellington! I will, myself, do workshops and more in Wellington in the next couple of months. But first things first, I am moving this weekend and i still have to finish packing!

Stay connected with yourself… be mindful at all time as it is the best way to be relaxed and happy… love your journey as it is always the right one for yourself!

Sublimity is moving to Wellington!

I have a great news: Sublimity is moving to Wellington!

My husband got a job there as a web programmer and I will follow him, taking my business with me!

It is very exciting for me and my family but as well for my business. In Wellington, I will indeed have a wider client base and will be able to provide more services to more customers, which is great for me; I just love making people feel better;-) I will be able to carry on with all my projects, as training to become a yoga teacher and later on a personal trainer. I will be able to specialize in different therapies such as the Bowen therapy or kinesiology. But first things first, I have to find a great house to set up Sublimity and start getting clients!

I love new challenges and going with the flow. They are only positive things in moving somewhere else and it is a great journey that I am very grateful to take on. I thank deeply and truly all the people that have supported me in Hanmer Springs, all my clients, regulars, friends and business relations for helping me to set up such a wonderful and now successful business. Come and see me in Welly for a weekend away!

Know yourself… or know myself!

In my massage room I have the quote ‘Know yourself’ written on the wall. It is a good reminder of the starting point of all things that concern ourselves. By knowing yourself better, your body, your way of reacting to different situations, your emotions, your intellect, your body type etc you can love yourself more. It is a never ending job to know yourself as when you discover something about yourself it leads to another thing and then another thing etc. I strongly believe that we change constantly, as we  have new experiences, new friends, new jobs. We learn more about ourselves constantly and it is really rewarding! You certainly can live better by knowing what your body needs and what your inner child craves for. And when you think that “that’s it, I know myself”, then something happens and takes you by surprise and you have to rediscover yourself again! Saying that, I strongly believe that you can create yourself as well… Lets take me as an example. I was certain until a month ago to know my body really well, having always practiced yoga, being a massage therapist and having studied about nutrition, health and well being for so long. “i Knew me so well!”. But it took just a second for everything to be put in question… after playing with my daughters, I still don’t know how, I twisted and injured by right glute badly, then the pain spread everywhere in my lower back and legs… how come??? I have thought about that for hours but it didn’t lead anywhere… so I started to meditate again – as I could not exercise anymore and that was driving me nuts;-) and then I tuned into my body, I read on Internet for hours about injuries and re-education and I talked to my good friend who’s going through almost the same as me… and I started to practice a beginner’s yoga again, watch my every move, touch my sore bits to massage them, being totally aware of everything that was happening in my body. I discovered some seriously weak parts that I didn’t know about, I discovered my determination and dedication to feeling good in my body and help others to do so too. By going through so much pain, I had to learn to be more humble, I had to rethink my lifestyle and practice, my goals and the strain I put on my own body by not doing the right thing. I love that it happened to me. I can say that know, I am a lot better! But you always have to look at the bigger picture, be patient (an extremely hard thing for me!) and be gentle to yourself. I am practicing yoga again, in a more loving way for my body and I have gained a lot of knowledge and personal experience that I can apply during my massages, which is great!

Thanks for reading me, and all the best in your own self-discovering journey!