Rob Zukowski is a New York State LMT, certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, a Certified Medical Massage Therapist and holds a degree in Occupational Studies, with a focus on massage therapy, from the prestigious Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences. He has advanced training in sports massage, various relaxation therapies, and training in multi-therapeutic approaches to massage for oncology.

In addition to private practice, his experience includes being a massage therapist, lead therapist and member relationships manager in assorted fitness centers, spas, clinics and holistic healing settings and working in corporate wellness environments. Rob also works as a client services manager at a healing center, authors his own column on the subject of complementary and alternative medicine in a national HIV/AIDS magazine, works in student outreach and lectures on therapeutic massage for various pathologies.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Tension Headaches: Some related muscles and connective tissue

Tension headaches can be caused by a variety of things including stress, posture and muscle spasms. Many people suffer with headaches caused by the suboccipital muscles and fascia.

The suboccipital muscles are located at the base of the skull and help hold the head into extension, or upright. When these muscles are overly contacted or in spasm, it can aggravate the greater suboccipital nerve resulting in a series of events that produce tension headaches. In addition, tension headaches can be related to "kinks" in the fascia. Fascia is a layer of fibrous; a structure of connective tissue that surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels, and nerves, binding some structures together, while permitting others to slide smoothly over each other. Fascia is a lot like a web surrounding and covering many structures within the body. A kink or adhesion in that covering somewhere, or anywhere, could cause the fascia to bind and pull tight anywhere. Think about it; if your socks are too tight around the ankles and don't move as you walk, it could restrict the movement of you toes, causing pain. So while the tension or adhesion is around your ankles, it inhibits movement in your toes. Fascia can work similarly. Many tension headaches occur at the top of the head or in the forehead or temples. So, it stands to reason that if your head is in "looking down" position at your computer monitor or phone, or if you head hangs for any reason, that your sub occipitals or the fascia could be pulling on these areas and causing the headache.

Poor posture can be associated with suboccipital muscle spasms and headaches. When the head and shoulders are leaning forward the suboccipital muscles compensate to lift the head. With chronic head forward postures, the muscle become overwhelmed and spasms.

Massage therapy can decreases the intensity and frequency of tension headaches. Massage is very effective at decreasing muscle pain, spasms and kinks in the fascia. A trained massage therapist can work on the suboccipital, trapezius, scalene, SCM, cervical spinal, thoracic paraspinal, and rhomboid muscles. These muscles, all located around the upper back and shoulders, base of head, and neck tend to be involved in tension headaches.

In addition to massage, cervical exercises and stretches can increase the range of motion and flexibility of the muscles that cause tension headaches and improve tissue state and function of neck joints and muscles. The movements at the cervical spine include flexion (the head moving forward), extension (the head falling backward), rotation (the head rotating to look left and/or right) and lateral flexion (the head tilting to leaning to one side or the other). Doing these actions, without overstretching, can help relieve tension headaches caused by the suboccipitals and related fascia.

Now, I would NOT suggest letting anyone who is not trained stretch your cervical spine. For example, damage or issues with the vertebral artery come into play with extension stretches of the cervical spine. You also must consider AROM (Active Range of Motion, or you do the stretch) and PROM (Passive Range of Motion, or someone stretches you). The degrees of movement differ, in some movements, deepening on whether you are the one moving the structure or someone else is. For example, the normal or average range of motion for rotation of the head is 70 to 90 degree either way, but flexion is typically 45 to 60 degrees when flexed actively (by you) and 80 to 90 degrees when flexed passively (by someone else). The normal range of motion for lateral flexion actively is 25 to 40 degrees, while passively it is 75 to 80 degrees.

By the way, in case you are wondering why there is a difference in degrees of movement; when you are sitting or standing in your normal posture, all sorts of muscles are at work to keep you upright and these muscles can inhibit your stretches. But, when you are relaxed and not actively using those muscles, the massage therapist can perform the movements for you, without the other muscles inhibiting movement.

Give your head an neck a gentle stretch a few times a day. Gentle. Don't push or overstretch. Take a deep breath in and then let it out as your move into the stretch. Let your head fall forward, backward and from side to side and hold hold 10 seconds or so. Roll your head, gently, in circles in both directions. This can help stretch the muscles and fascia and relieve or prevent tension headaches.

There are wonderful Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Techniques such as body mobilization techniques and tense and relax techniques that can help with tension headaches or any muscle tension pain in the body. Be sure to see a trained professional.

________________________________________________________________ I am not a doctor. These are my own personal opinions, ideas and processes from my own research, studies, trial and error. Take 'em, leave 'em, either way, consult a medical professional as needed. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What the Heart wants. In my opinion.

Let's talk about the heart for a minute. Not just "the" heart, my heart. Occasionally, I get something called arrhythmia, which in simple terms, is an irregular heart beat. I certainly have some of the risk factors, high blood pressure in one, albeit controlled; diabetes, hyperthyroidism and stress being others. Also, things I manage. Now, couple these things with the fact that I naturally have some extra heart beats and you have a recipe for arrhythmia. 

There are other things that can lead to arrhythmia as well. Arrhythmia can be a sign of a heart attack that's occurring right now. It could be caused by scarring of heart tissue from a prior heart attack or due to changes to your heart's structure, such as from cardiomyopathy or blocked arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease). Smoking, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, drug abuse,some medications,  dietary supplements and herbal treatments can be the culprit. Even electrical shock and air pollution play a role.

Millions of people walk around with arrhythmia every day. What I have always been told to watch for in these situations is not so much the irregularity of my rate, but the speed. The average resting heart rate is around 72 BPM. Having an arrhythmia with an average rate is not all that dangerous. But, the real risk comes about with an elevated heart rate. At 72, or thereabout, BPM, you heart can do its job. Blood flows in, blood flows out. Cool. But when you start to get an elevated number of beats, the heart cannot pump the blood out as fast as it is taking it in. Sitting blood is a recipe for clots. Wave your finger at it and say "clot bad!" 

On Sunday morning I woke up, or was woken up, by an arrhythmia. MY BPM was good, 70's and low 80's. The first thing I did? Panic. The second thing I did was pretty western. I took an extra metoprolol, which is used to slow the heart rate or keep it slow, and then took half a klonopin to deal with the anxiety; which clearly, would do my heart rate no good at all. 

Then, I went a bit more crunchy, herbal and holistic. I am a firm believer that both east and west have their advantages and I like to benefit from both. WebMD, with the help of nutrition experts from The Cleveland Clinic and the American Dietetic Association, put together a list of the "best of the best" heart-healthy foods. So, I did a little shopping and made some healthy meals and mixes. Some might say that it does no good to hold the railing if you have already fallen down the stairs. I say, maybe I need to hold the rail to help me get back on my feet. 

The foods listed here are all top-performers in protecting your heart and blood vessels. And I went shopping. 

Has Omega-3 fatty acids, which the say is good for heart health.

  1. Flaxseed (ground)
Omega-3 fatty acids; fiber, phytoestrogens. I add it to my granola.

  1. Oatmeal
Omega-3 fatty acids; magnesium; potassium; folate; niacin; calcium; soluble fiber. I add the nuts (below) to my oatmeal.

  1. Black or Kidney Beans
B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate; magnesium; omega-3 fatty acids; calcium; soluble fiber. Awesome with the brown rice (listed below).

  1. Almonds
Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols.

  1. Walnuts
Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; folate; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols.

  1. Red wine
Catechins and reservatrol (flavonoids). They say a glass of red wine could improve "good" HDL cholesterol. I opted out on this one since I took my western meds. 

  1. Tuna
Omega-3 fatty acids; folate; niacin.

  1. Tofu
Niacin; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium. I do love tofu, but you should research it. It is said that it is not good for thyroid function and not the best for men. Moderation please

  1. Brown rice
B-complex vitamins; fiber; niacin; magnesium, fiber.

  1. Soy milk
Isoflavones (a flavonoid); B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate, calcium; magnesium; potassium; phytoestrogens. Soy milk can be heart healthy, but again, look it up, it has its drawbacks. 

  1. Blueberries
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); anthocyanin (a flavonoid); ellagic acid (a polyphenol); vitamin C; folate; calcium, magnesium; potassium; fiber.

  1. Carrots
Alpha-carotene (a carotenoid); fiber.
Baby carrots are sweet for lunch. Sneak shredded carrots into spaghetti sauce or muffin batter.

  1. Spinach
Lutein (a carotenoid); B-complex vitamins; folate; magnesium; potassium; calcium; fiber.
Pick spinach (not lettuce) for nutrient-packed salads and sandwiches.

  1. Broccoli
Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); Vitamins C and E; potassium; folate; calcium; fiber.
Chop fresh broccoli into store-bought soup. For a veggie dip, try hummus (chickpeas).

  1. Sweet potato
Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); vitamins A, C, E; fiber.

  1. Red bell peppers
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.

  1. Asparagus
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; fiber.

  1. Oranges
Beta-cryptoxanthin, beta- and alpha-carotene, lutein (carotenoids) and flavones (flavonoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.

  1. Tomatoes
Beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein (carotenoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.

  1. Acorn squash
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium; fiber. I thank Whole Foods for their baked curry acorn squash. 

  1. Cantaloupe
Alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.

  1. Papaya
Beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein (carotenoids); Vitamins C and E; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium.

  1. Dark chocolate
Reservatrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids). They say a truffle a day lowers blood pressure, but choose 70% or higher cocoa content. Chocolate is still high in sugar and has caffeine, so watch your intake. 

  1. Tea
Catechins and flavonols (flavonoids). Decaf.

Also, Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage. Magnesium, potassium, and calcium help lower blood pressure. Fiber-rich foods help lower cholesterol levels.
And for stress? I am glad you asked. Lot's of scheduled diaphragmatic breathing  and my music of choice? Elias Prayer Cycle
Again, I am not a doctor. These are my own personal opinions, ideas and processes from my own research, trial and error. Take 'em, leave 'em, either way, consult a medical professional as needed. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tea Based Soda

Is soda and diet soda really bad for you? In the end, you have to make your own choice. I started reading labels a while back. Then I started to Google the ingredients that I didn't know. You can do the same. In fact, here is place to start

I'm not here to slam soda. But seriously, look at some labels. 7-Up is one of the lowest chemical offenders on teh list. Ingredients include:

Carbonated Water, and Contains 2% or less of Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, Potassium Citrate, Potassium Benzoate (Preservative), Calcium Disodium EDTA (to Protect Flavor), Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose (Splenda Brand).

I would like to give you another soda option for home made soda.

1. Get some herbal tea. I like the flavored ones, anti oxidant types; different teas have all sorts of different flavors and benefits. 
2. Fill your tea pot with half the amount of water that will fill your favorite pitcher and drop in two tea bags of your choice. Let it brew and steep. 
3. Get a bottle of seltzer. Plain old seltzer. FYI, seltzer contains carbonated water and Potassium Chloride, or, salt; 60 mg. of it, or 3% daily value based on a 2000 calorie a day diet. 
4. After your tea has brewed, cool it off, chill it. 
5. Pour that half pitcher of tea into that favorite pitcher and the fill the rest with seltzer. 

Viola. A healthier, tea based soda. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Everybody Poops. Are you doing it right?

No matter what age you are or what your station in life, people often find poop funny. However, your poop posture; now that's serious. You will be either amused or informed. Maybe both.

I learned about proper poop posture in an Eastern Medicine class while on the topic of abdominal massage. Naturally, most of the class giggled when the subject was broached. I will never forget what the professor said, in fact, I made it a Facebook staus that day. "You are training to be medical professionals. We have to talk about poop."

Generally and briefly, colon/deep abdominal massage can help your colon to work more effectively. The less "full" you are the less sluggish you feel and losing toxins can help improve skin condition. This massage practice can help to assist the body's natural ability to heal itself by cleansing the colon of toxin build up. Starting at the bottom right corner of your rib cage, the massage therapist will massage your abdomen, using circular motions. The massage proceeds across your abdomen, along the base of your ribs, and then down the other side, across your lower abdomen, and back up again, in concentric circles. The areas targeted are your ascending, transverse and descending colon.

Squatting when defecating is not a new concept. In some of my travels I came across toilets designed specifically for this position, and I just thought it was a primitive toilet and cheap accommodations. It turns out, no pun intended, that squatting is believed to be a healthier position; it can help avoid colon disease, constipation, hemorrhoids, pelvic floor issues and similar posterior problems. No strain, all gain.

It's all about your anorectal angle - the angle formed by the junction of the rectum with the anus. Studies show, after a measure of the anorectal angle in various postures, that the angle is partially straightened out when squatting, thereby reducing the usual pressure required for defecation. Some research has shown that in some people, the kink is completely gone while squatting.
Anatomically speaking, when you are seated, the anorectal angle is kinked which puts upward pressure on the rectum and keeps the pig in the pen, so to speak. I grasp that the toilet in your home is likely not built for the squat and that you likely won't remodel for a hole in the floor version. I get it; but you can always use a stool for your stool. Pun intended.