I’m pregnant – why does it hurt so much?

Preparing for birth is like preparing for a marathon.

You need to condition both your mind and your body.

You need to release fear, which creates tension, producing more pain, creating more fear, which starts a whole vicious cycle in the mind and body as described by Obstetrician and leading advocate of natural birth, Dr Grantly Dick-Read in his book ‘Childbirth Without Fear’.

However, let’s look at an area of the physical side of pregnancy.  One of the important physical aspects of the body during pregnancy is the pelvis.  Your pelvis is not one fixed bone, it is made up of the sacrum, coccyx and the two sacroiliac joints, one on the left and one on the right, which are joined at the front by the pubis symphysis, a fibrous cartilage.

Surrounding the pelvis are really important muscles which help to stabilise the pelvis, but let’s really just focus on the psoas muscles (pronounced so-as), which also works to send messages back to the central nervous system.

The psoas major muscles are quite large muscles and are the only muscles that connect your spine to your leg on either side of the spine.  The psoas connects from the last four vertebrae of the spine between the pelvis and the ribs and then wrap around to the front of the pelvis and drop down to attach at the lower end to the top of the thigh bone.

psoas muscle

The iliopsoas is a hip flexor and externally rotates the hip and the psoas (major) part of the muscle assists in lumbar extension and moves the ribs forward into a thrust, lifting the chest.  When these muscles contract they will shorten, when the muscles relax they will lengthen and release tension.  The psoas is shortened more so during pregnancy due to the anterior pelvic tilt, as your uterus expands, baby grows and you are carrying more weight.

During pregnancy, the psoas contributes to pain through the lower back, groin, adductors and can even cause weakness due to the extra pressure from the weight of the uterus.  Being in a sitting position for long periods of time can shorten the psoas muscle causing pain and tension in the pelvic floor, the hips and the spine.

It can also affect the space in the abdomen, affect the alignment of the skeletal system and limit the range of motion in the spine, pelvis and legs, which in turn will limit the functionality of birthing positions such as squatting.

The psoas plays a significant role in Optimal Foetal Positioning (OFP) and can be a reason a baby stays in the breech position, as it can prevent the hips from extending and restrict the opening of the pelvis.  It can cause the disks in the spinal cord to compress and also shorten the hamstrings and calf muscles.  Pregnant women should learn to relax, release and lengthen the psoas muscles on a daily basis so that baby will find an easy transition into the birth canal.

Optimal Foetal Position

Medical Illustration – Nucleus Medical Media

 

Childbirth Educator and Physical Therapist Penny Simkin writes:  “It is less important to know the foetal position than it is important to respond to the needs of the birth.  The muscles, ligaments and bones may need accommodation regardless of foetal position.  In other words, tension in the psoas pair of muscles or pelvic floor can delay an anterior baby and a posterior baby.  Extension of the anterior foetus’ head can prevent engagement in some pelvises.  The main point is that we can, when needed, promote progress regardless of foetal position.”

It is also important to be aware that the hormone ‘relaxin’ does not reduce muscle tension.  It softens the abdominal muscles to cope with the growing size of your belly and relaxes the pelvic floor muscles.  Relaxin promotes the rupture of the membranes, the opening and softening of the cervix and vagina, relaxes the pelvic ligaments and joints, the intrauterine ligaments and the pubis symphysis to help with the smooth transition of baby from womb to world, however pregnant women need to do more of their own work to stretch out and release stress and tension in the muscles (particularly the psoas) as the hormones will not do this for you.

Liz Koch from Core Awareness is an advisor for the well-known Spinning Babies organisation and recommends this simple gravity technique to help release the psoas muscles during pregnancy and to also encourage Optimal Foetal Positioning while relieving stress and anxiety.

Liz Koch - Core Awareness

  1. Lie on your back and use pillows to create a diagonal support from your sit bones to your head (if you’re not pregnant, you can just lie on your back).
  2. Bend your knees, with your heels about 12 – 16 inches away from the buttocks.
  3. Keep your feet about a hip width apart and parallel with each other.
  4. Place your hands on your belly or at the sides of your body and simply rest in this position for 10 – 20 minutes.

Well known Physical Therapist Susan McLaughlin demonstrates how to release the psoas and relax the pelvic floor muscles, which can also be incorporated during pregnancy.

Susan McLaughlin - psoas release

  1. Place the bolster near the bottom of the shoulder blades.
  2. Make sure that the ribs remain relaxed and flush with your abdominal wall.
  3. Extend the legs.
  4. Make sure that the back of your thighs fully touch the floor.
  5. If they don’t you need to bolster up higher.
  6. Relax like this for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Allow your legs and torso to relax.
  8. Practice breathing.
  9. Focus on allowing the pelvic floor muscles to relax on the inhale.
  10. Tension in the pelvic floor can pull on the sacrum, limiting sacral mobility that is necessary to widen the pelvic outlet.

Regular massage will certainly release tension and stress in the pregnant body encouraging the feel good hormones endorphins, aid in increasing circulation and reducing oedema.  A qualified pregnancy massage specialist will be able release the psoas muscles as well as teach a pregnant woman how to stretch and relax the psoas on a daily basis to ensure her body is ready for labour and birth, and assist in Optimal Foetal Positioning.

I am a Pregnancy Massage Specialist with a Diploma in Pregnancy Massage and Maternity Care from both Well Mother and Pregnancy Massage Australia.  My business is Phoenix Therapies Pregnancy Wellness  located in the northern suburbs of Perth and I have been operating since 2004.  I work with women during pre-conception, pregnancy and the postnatal period as well as after caesarean section to promote rapid healing both physically and mentally.

I am also a certified Doula, Hypnotherapist and Heal Your Life Facilitator while running another business as a Hypnobirthing Practitioner at the Hypnobirthing Centre WA and a Member of Hypnobirthing Australia.

To book your pregnancy or postnatal massage or just to get more information please call me on (08) 9303 9111 or email vicki@phoenixtherapies.com.au

 

 

Headaches – could it be from tension in the jaw?

Everyone carries tension differently.

When some people are stressed or anxious they will become tense in their shoulders and upper back, while others may feel tension in their neck.  However, if you hold your tension in your jaw or grind your teeth, this could be leading to more than just a sore mouth.

tmj muscles

Having pain or tension in the jaw is often referred to as a TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder or syndrome.

The temporomandibular joint connects the mandible to the skull’s temporal bone and contributes to the acts of biting, chewing, swallowing, speaking and making facial expressions.

When you have tension in the jaw this can then radiate tension to the muscles in the head, neck and shoulders.

This can cause muscle tension headaches and contribute to migraines by restricting blood flow.  That’s why relaxing your jaw and neck muscles is crucial to eliminating headache pain.

Our massage therapists can feel straight away if there is tension in the jaw which may be causing headaches, and one of the first things we ask the client is “do you grind or clench your teeth?” Some people are aware that they clench or grind their teeth, but others have no idea they are doing it particularly those who grind their teeth when they are asleep. Some people clench their teeth when they are angry or stressed so it’s a good idea to monitor this next time you are feeling these emotions.

Pain is the most common symptom of TMJ.

The pain is often described as a transient, dull ache in the jaw joint and nearby areas, including the ear. Instead of pain, some sufferers only have problems in the use of their jaw.

Additional symptoms of TMJ can include:

  • Inability to open the mouth comfortably
  • Clicking, popping or grating sounds in the jaw joint
  • Locking of the jaw when attempting to open the mouth
  • A bite that feels uncomfortable or “off”
  • Neck, shoulder and back pain
  • Swelling on the side of the face
  • Tinnitus or ear pain
  • Dizziness

Massage therapy works very well to help reduce and eliminate the tension and symptoms in your jaw, neck and shoulders.  During massage, we will work the acupressure points around the main areas of the jaws, ears and forehead which will feel a little tender, but you will notice a difference immediately.

We will use myofascial release techniques on the neck muscles and pectoralis major to correct any roundness of the shoulder posture and release pressure on the jaw followed by stretching.  Another technique is to “pick up” the sternocleidomastoid and to use slight twisting movements to release any trigger points and tension along with kneading, stripping and trigger point release through the neck muscles. All of these techniques will help to relieve pain, increase blood flow to the muscles and elevate endorphin levels to further reduce the client’s pain and stress. We will also spend time working through the scalp and releasing the hair follicles to ensure that all tension through this area is then not going to contribute to jaw tension.

At your next massage at Phoenix Therapies Wellness Centre, ask your therapist to release your TMJ (temporomandibular joint) to ensure that you are doing everything possible to ease and eliminate regular headaches and tension.

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To arrange an appointment contact Phoenix Therapies on 9303 9111 or visit our website www.phoenixtherapies.com.au

Massage Therapists – what makes an exceptional one?

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GOOD MASSAGE THERAPIST AND AN EXCEPTIONAL MASSAGE THERAPIST?
Written by Vicki Hobbs, 
Owner / Operator of Phoenix Therapies Wellness & Pregnancy Centre 

I believe that I am an exceptional massage therapist!

The difference between me and a good massage therapist is hands on experience, ongoing training and the understanding that you will never know everything and that is why it is important to constantly seek out more knowledge, more experience and more understanding.

From the moment I meet my client, I watch the way they stand, sit and walk. I look at their posture and the way they hold their neck and shoulders. I look at how their feet are positioned as they walk and when they are lying on the table. Before I have even spoken to them I already have an idea of the muscles that need work based on my observations. I look at what they have written on their client history form, checking what they do for a job, any past or present conditions that might be affecting muscles, what type of exercise they do, how much water they drink and what are their stress triggers and my mind is ticking over all these important clues of how I can perform my clients treatment. When my client is in the treatment room I ask questions and I listen to the answers, all the while formulating my treatment strategy. Once they are on the table I look at their alignment and the tell tale signs of tense muscles.

For me the best massage a person can give you is one in silence. A therapist who is constantly talking is not thinking about the treatment they are giving you or the muscles that they are working on, no matter how good they are. Yes they may still give a good massage, but not an exceptional massage and you as the client deserve value for money – you deserve the best! phoenix-43 - Copy

During the treatment as I run my hands over my clients body initially in the warm up phase of the massage I just “feel”. Massage is all about touch and feeling for areas of dysfunction. I can instinctively pick the areas that are causing you problems immediately just through that initial touch.

During my remedial training, one of my awesome lecturers made us close our eyes and feel each muscle while we worked. To this day, I still close my eyes from time to time while working on a client and in my mind I visualise every muscle I am working on, visualise the attachment points, visualise the tension being worked out of each muscle and the muscles lengthening, I visualise the stress, anxiety and discomfort being released from my clients body, and as I work I notice the calm and peacefulness coming over them.

I take my job very seriously. I am passionate about massage and how much it will benefit a person not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Massage is not about a quick rub down of the body. Massage is about incorporating many different techniques such as trigger point release, deep tissue, relaxation and positional release of muscles.

My centre is not a day spa where most therapists are trained to certificate level in swedish massage, which is for relaxation and they definitely do create a beautiful experience for someone who needs pampering. When you come for a remedial massage at Phoenix Therapies, it is our job to work on your problem areas, however I guarantee you will leave feeling relaxed and calm as well, rejuvenated and re-energised because we make it our mission to work on all levels of the mind, the body and the emotions.

Testimonial by Alison of Edgewater
I have been attending Phoenix Therapies on a regular basis for over 2 years now. Initially I visited Vicki for relaxation massages. When I moved back to Perth I sought Vicki out when I hurt my back. The time she took to assess my personal situation and then create a remedial plan ensured that my injury healed completely. I now see Sarah every month for continued massage therapy. These regular visits are a part of my personal management plan to ensure my physical and mental well-being are looked after. I have always found Vicki and her team to be very caring. Vicki as a business leader is keen to take on any feedback – positive or negative. She has the courage to act on this feedback and then make the changes necessary to improve her business. I know when she was looking to expand she spent a lot of time finding the right personnel for Phoenix Therapies. People who would not only be able to do the job but also to fit in with the ethos and principles of the business. Vicki’s holistic approach to massage is the key to her success. I have no issues recommending Phoenix Therapies to friends and colleagues.

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The same goes with pregnancy massage. Massage therapy during pregnancy is a necessity, not just a luxury to assist in reducing stress, anxiety and to promote relaxation, but not only that it helps to prepare muscles and joints for childbirth along with so many other benefits. As a mother of two (born 15 years apart), I have experienced two very different pregnancies and my second pregnancy was made all the more rewarding and manageable by having regular pregnancy massage incorporating remedial techniques.

Again, when I work on a pregnant woman I visualise and “feel” all the problem areas that need attention and I utilise all the right techniques to ensure that when that pregnant mum leaves my centre she not only feels those sore spots have been managed or eliminated, she also feels the calming sensatons and relaxation of the mind and body.

My training in pregnancy massage and maternity care has been extensive and I just can’t get enough in terms of soaking up like a sponge new information, therapies and remedies to ease pregnancy related discomfort. I am a certified Doula / Birthing Assistant and Childbirth Educator and I love sharing my knowledge with pregnant mums and giving them support and natural alternatives to the medical model of pregnancy care.

Working with pregnant women gives me the opportunity to share ways that you can ease your discomfort at home with really simple stretches, positioning and handy tools. I can provide you with information that will be of benefit to you during your pregnancy, labour and birth. If I don’t know something then I will definitely find out for you as I belong to a wonderful network of like-minded Doula’s, Midwives and Natural Therapists. I want you to feel empowered as a woman and about your birthing choices.

I feel so honoured when a first time mum who has visited our centre and felt their care with us was so exceptional that they return after baby is born for postnatal massages and then for subsequent pregnancies. Our pregnancy massage club is rapidly growing with all the beautiful little cherubs we helped to bring calm and peace while they were still growing inside. It’s fantastic when the husbands or partners visit as they too benefit from deep tissue remedial massage incorporating relaxation techniques, as let’s face it, our men can get pretty stressed out from time to time and they feel that with tense muscles, headaches, lower back pain and shoulder and neck pain too.

Testimonial by Mel of Hamersley
I was given a gift of some money to have a massage to pamper myself during my pregnancy, and my Obstetrician’s team suggested trying Phoenix Therapies and I am just so happy that I decided to try it. I had been experiencing a lot of back pain and the general discomfort of pregnancy, and was not expecting more than a few moments of relief. But not only did I completely relax during my session, I had the most blissful nights sleep that night and following nights! Staff took the time to find out about my specific needs, made me so comfortable both physically and emotionally, and even took the time to show me some ongoing exercises that I could do at home to keep my back pain at bay. I really appreciated the holistic way you cared for me and created a really special memory for me during my pregnancy, as well as providing much needed practical physical relief.

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All our therapists who work at Phoenix Therapies have all been chosen for their excellent training opportunities and their beliefs about massage, the body and the mind and for their ability to perform an exceptional massage. Keep in mind that what works for one person may not necessarily work for the next and that is why we suggest alternative treatments to clients so they can find what works best for them.

Similarly, you may not like the technique of one therapist so try one of the others to find who suits you best because at the end of the day I want you to leave my premises feeling you got value for money and an exceptional massage experience so that you keep coming back and recommending our services to your friends, family members and colleagues.

MORE TESTIMONIALS

After a recommendation from a friend, I started attending Phoenix Therapies Wellness Centre, and have maintained a monthly visit for a therapeutic massage for over 3½ years, and more recently the services of the on-site Chiropractor. I personally, have found the difference between this centre compared to other massage places vastly different, not only due to the professional attitude of the staff, but also their friendliness, knowledge of their work and the general ambience of the Centre. The atmosphere of the Centre is one of absolute peace and calmness, which to me, is what the whole experience of massage and the related services are all about. I plan to experience some of the other services on offer in the near future, and have no doubt at all to recommend others to the Centre for their own personal experience, whether it may be therapeutic or just ‘feel good’.
Sue of Marangaroo

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Having been a happy client of Phoenix Therapies for the past 4 years, I am more than willing to state that the level of service and professionalism with which I am treated on every occasion that I visit is absolutely second to none. I was impressed from my very
first contact with Vicki and her team of attentive therapists. Having enjoyed the specialised Pregnancy Massage service whilst expecting my first child, I was eager to return for the same indulgent and remedial magic again, now that my second baby is on the way. I find the conscientious attention to detail, during the in-depth pre-treatment interviews very reassuring, and know that my unborn baby and I are in the best of hands. Vicki also regularly sends out relevant and interesting email newsletters about new services available at the practice and also about unique upcoming workshops and courses. These newsletters are never intrusive or trying to sell me something, but more educational and structured to compliment my course of treatment in a holistic way. The staff at Phoenix Therapies are very friendly and courteous, always welcoming me with big smiles as I walk in the door. I also appreciate the reminder text I am sent automatically the day before my appointment, and their ability to keep me on short notice waiting lists for opening appointment times. I certainly feel like one of their valued clientele, and am always telling my family and friends about my great experiences with Phoenix Therapies. Especially anyone who is pregnant, as it is very difficult to find qualified, experienced and trustworthy therapists in this field in the northern suburbs of Perth. I wish Vicki and her team every success with their growing and evolving business, and I consider myself lucky to have access to their invaluable services.
Megan of Wanneroo

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The residents of Darch and surrounding suburbs are lucky to have such a fantastic business like Phoenix Therapies at their local neighbourhood shopping centre. Vicki and her team of happy staff have grown a great business which seems to be adding
to its products and services to experience each time I hear from them via email/Facebook or visiting the centre. From the moment you enter the centre you feel relaxed and calm and while waiting for your therapy to commence there is a wonderful range of products in reception to view and purchase to take home a little piece of the experience. I usually visit the centre for remedial massage and have been lucky enough to meet both Sarah and Kieko who usually look after me with happy and friendly service while delivering an exceptional remedial massage. I can’t speak highly enough of Phoenix Therapies and their wonderful staff.
John of Darch