How Massage can Help with Headaches

Massage therapy helps to relieve headaches by easing muscle tension, relieving muscle spasms, releasing shortened muscles and relaxing tension held in the muscles of the head, shoulders, and neck. When muscle tension eases, there is less pressure on the nerves and blood vessels that supply them. Oxygen-rich blood circulation improves, which also relieves pain. Massage therapy not only helps the muscles of the body to relax but also effectively reduces the anxiety and mental stress that can cause or exacerbate headaches. Regular, ongoing massage therapy can also help to prevent headaches by helping to reduce overall stress and the muscle tension that can trigger headache pain and by helping to maintain emotional balance. In a nutshell… if you have regular headaches, rather than reaching for the paracetamol come and see me and we can get to the bottom of it.

At Optimal Sports we treat a great number of musculo-skeletal conditions and consequently are not be able to include them all.

Preventing injury and optimising performance is beneficial to everyone whether on the sports field, at work or at home. Through a comprehensive assessment of posture, muscle imbalance, biomechanics and flexibility, any imbalances will be identified. A programme addressing these inefficiencies will allow you to continue your sport or activities with a decreased risk of injury while enhancing your performance.

he Optimal Sports Therapy Centre is located in Basingstoke, Hampshire and is ideally placed for travel from Basingstoke, Hook, Fleet, Hartley Whintney, Camberley, Farnborough, Aldershot, Andover, Overton, Whitchurch, Newbury or Reading. For an appointment please call Seb Challen on 01256 771160 or 07876 351562 or use the On-Line Booking page to book an assessment session.


Golf Back Pain – how to avoid it!

The main cause of Golf Back Pain is the swing. The golf swing has four components: the address position, back swing, down swing and follow through.

Golf Back Pain problems can occur during any of these phases, but the common errors tend to be:

Too much forward bending at address
Too little rotation of the hips and spine
Insufficient abdominal and back strength to support and control the swing action.

Picture shows Golfer at address with a good spine.

As many as 1 in 2 elite professional golfers have suffered from serious back pain at some stage of their career and 1 in 5 amateur golfers will suffer from back pain each year.

Top Tips to prevent back pain

  • Learn to maintain correct spinal posture (neutral spine) when addressing the ball.
  • Stretch hamsting muscles if tight to allow good address position
  • Develop adequate hip and spinal rotation flexibility
  • Strengthen abdominal muscles protect spine against excessive rotation force during the swing
  • Seek out the assistance of a professional golf coach to teach you the basics of an ideal swing.

Most of us at some time in our lives will suffer from low back pain. Many diagnoses are given for low back pain and range from slipped/prolapsed discs, degenerative arthritis, spondylosis, muscle strain, sacroiliac dysfunction and – one of the most common – sciatica. Assessment and treatment of spinal posture and muscle and strength imbalances will be carried out.

Golf Back Pain can be caused by Sciatica – a set of symptoms resulting from compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. Symptoms can include pain in the lower back, buttocks and sometimes the leg and foot, pins and needles or numbness in the leg. There are many different causes and potential areas of the origin of pain.


Back Pain – Cycling

Back pain – cycling. Research studies have shown that back pain in cycling is something that affects up to 70% of cyclists , together with neck pain. This is hardly surprising as cyclists regularly spend hours in the saddle. The cycling action involves the repetitive bending of alternating hips and knees, whilst maintaining a fixed back posture. Added stress on the back comes from vibrations from the ground which are transferred from the seat to the spine.

Neutral or near neutral position for your back on the bike is vital. Hinging forwards in the saddle from the hips rather than curling from the lower back. Studies show that cyclists who suffer from back pain tend to curl forwards more in their lower back.

Hamstrings and hip flexors need to be flexible in order to allow you to hold your spine in neutral. If they are tight your body will compensate by curling your back round.

Seat height is important. Too low and your low back will be forced to flex too much for you to pedal freely and too high will cause you to bend forwards through your back to reach the handlebars.

Neck pain is also very common in cyclists. The more you round your back, the greater the need to lift your neck upwards in order to look ahead. This compresses all the neck joints setting you up for pain and stiffness.

To prevent this you need to hold your spine straight and use your eyes to look ahead rather than always lifting your head. Every now and again, you should bring your head down to your chest whilst cycling in order to reverse the prolonged stiff posture of holding the neck in extension.

Back pain – cycling. In Summary

  • Maintain adequate spine flexibility especially in the thoracic area (between shoulder blades)
  • Develop good hamstring and hip flexor flexibility
  • Check saddle height (possible bike fit from local shop)

Learn to hold neutral spine while riding (see pic above)

Strength balance training

Strength balance training

“Physios can help prevent repeated falls in older people”

So says NICE, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in its new quality standard for falls in older people.

Strength balance training

Older people with a history of falls should be referred to experts, such as physiotherapists, who can provide them with strength and balance training.

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in people over 75 in the UK.

NICE says that falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in people over 75 in the UK, and cost the NHS an estimated £2.3 billion each year. As a result, the quality standard aims to help NHS staff prevent further injury in older patients who have already had a fall.

Physiotherapist Vicki Goodwin, research officer for the CSP professional network Agile, was part of the NICE quality standards advisory committee, which developed the standards.

Quality standards

The document sets out a series of standards to ensure that older falls patients receive a comprehensive assessment and support to prevent them falling again.

These include that:

NHS organisations with inpatient beds should ensure that all staff follow ‘post-fall’ protocols, which include checking older people who have fallen for fractures and spinal injuries before they are moved.

Older people who have fallen in the past should see an expert who can help them start exercises to build up their muscle strength and improve balance.

Older people who are treated in hospital for a fall should be offered a visit from a trained professional who can check their home for anything that puts them at risk of falling again.

Full report from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy here…


Strength balance training

Physiotherapy helps restore movement and function when someone is affected by injury, illness or disability. It takes a holistic approach that involves the patient directly in their own care. Physiotherapists treat people of all ages, helping them manage pain and using a number of methods to aid recovery. Although they’re often thought of as just dealing with musculoskeletal problems, physiotherapists are trained healthcare professionals who work in many areas, and in particular strength balance training of the elderly.

Deep Tissue Massage

Sports Massage

Sports Massage is an integral process in maintaining good levels of performance within Sport. Elite teams as well as casual players benefit from regular treatment and it has been shown to improve individual and team performance.

Sports Massage Benefits

A high quality sports massage can reduce the risk of injury and enhance recovery periods. It can release muscle tension and help to minimise muscle imbalances in the body brought about by the specific movement within the sport. Massage is also essential for the rehabilitation of soft-tissue injuries, such as muscular tears.

For example, in Football the physical nature of the sport leads to potential muscle imbalances. Particularly around the hips and hamstrings.

Most players have dominancy in one leg, which creates huge reaction forces that affect the kicking leg, whilst the opposite leg should stabilise and control the motion. Players muscles often fatigue too quickly or have limited ability to de-accelerate the leg during the kicking movement or during sprints. This can lead to hamstring tears and groin strains. Sports massage to the specific muscles which are shortened and overworked will reduce the risk of this occurring. This helps create more flexibility in these specific muscles groups which also helps promote muscle firing and allows good joint range in order to strengthen the weaker areas.

Repetitive use of muscles causes fibres to bunch up and form areas of adhesions which lead to overall muscle stiffness. The layers of tissue can become bound down and significantly restrict joint movement. Muscle strength throughout the entire joint range can be affected, leading to certain dysfunctional movement patterns. Identification of the poor movement patterns is necessary for preventing injury to tissue.

When is Sports Massage needed?

Within Sport, different applications of massage are used depending on matches and training schedules. Lighter sports massage can be used either straight after competing or in the following 24-48 hours to aid in recovery. Sports Massage within this period will aid the removal of waste products from the muscles and increase blood flow to increase oxygen and nutrient delivery, therefore, decreasing muscle aches. This will also decrease the likelihood of muscular tiredness symptoms. No deep tissue work is usually necessary at this time as the body is still recovering from performance.

Deep tissue massage can be used during the week leading up to a competition leaving at least two days prior as it may sometimes aggravate symptoms temporarily. It is applied to specific regions and designed to alleviate muscle stiffness, spasm and pain and promote tissue health. This allows the body to recover and allows the physiological adaptations to take place so that performance at the highest level can take place.

Sports Massage aids body awareness and by receiving treatment educates individuals by learning specific exercises and stretches that will lead to improved performance and reduce the risk of injury.

Heel and Foot

Sports Therapy and Physiotherapy

Sports Therapy and Physiotherapy are professions dealing with body movement and physical health. In other countries such as Canada and USA, they are known as Physical Therapists.

What do Sports Therapists and Physiotherapists study?

As undergraduates, sports therapists and physiotherapists (physio’s) study a wide range of science related subjects including Anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and biomechanics. They also study a number of subjects that deal with injury and disease such as pathology and immunology, and subjects that relate more to human behaviour like psychology. The training is very broad to enable them to treat a variety of problems related to movement and physical health.
Anyone who has difficulty with their mobility would benefit from seeing a Sports Therapist or a Physio. Whether it is a problem due to a sprained ankle, a stiff or sore back or shoulder, a new hip joint, weak legs due to old age or a lack of fitness after an operation.

What techniques are used?

Sports Therapists and Physiotherapists use hands on techniques such as manipulation and massage to help restore mobility. They also focus on giving people exercises to help improve strength and stability. Sometimes machines like ultrasound and laser may be used to help heal sprained ligaments or torn muscles but these are always used in conjunction with manual techniques and exercise.

What does the Assessment include?

A visit to a Sports Therapy Centre will consist of an assessment to determine exactly what your problem is, what is causing it and whether there are any contributing factors that need to be addressed in order to sort the problem out once for all. The physio or sports therapist will then discuss their diagnosis with you as well as suggestions for treating the problem. You will be given an estimated time scale for when you should feel better and you will be able to return to normal activities of daily living.

Sports Therapy and Physiotherapy

If you are unsure whether Sports Therapy can help your problem, email at seb@optimalcentre.co.uk or call 07876351562 to speak directly to the injury specialist.

Further information – NHS Choices – Sports Injuries – Treatment

Ice Bath

Is hot or cold better for those aches or pains??

The application of something as simple as an ice pack or a hot water bottle can help reduce the impact of an injury very quickly.

But when should you apply it?

Ice packs and cold compresses

The ideal time to apply ice or cold to an injury is immediately after an injury. Any injury that has caused pain or bruising is likely to result in inflammation developing. Something that is inflamed will be painful, it may look red or bruised and will be swollen. This is a sign of tissue injury and is a normal response of the body to help with healing.

An ice pack should be used intermittently on the affected area for the following 72 hours. The effect of the cold is to limit the blood flow into the area and so slow down the rate of cell death in the injured tissue. This will then reduce how severe the inflammatory reaction is.

Crushed ice cubes or a bag of frozen peas are ideal because then can be moulded around the painful part. Always wrap this in a damp tea towel and then apply it to the part for 10-15 minutes. Never put the ice straight on the skin as this may cause an ice burn. Then wrap a dry towel around the body part and elevate it.

Hot water bottles and heat pads

Heat is best applied to problems that involve feelings of stiffness or tightness. Heat should not be applied to an acute injury because it may increase blood flow to the area and so exacerbate the inflammation.

The effect of heat is to relax the muscles around the area and so allow more movement.

Heat pads should be left in place for 15-20 minutes and it is a good idea to then stretch the part if you have been shown how to do this. For bad backs or necks it is better to avoid lying in a hot bath for long periods as this is a poor posture to adapt, try lying on your back with a heat pad under your neck or lower back.


Benefits of Sports Massage for Marathon Runners:

Benefits of Sports Massage for Marathon Runners:

  • It helps to decrease the recovery time between training sessions especially after longer runs
  • Helps to identify areas of tightness by compensations when training
  • It decreases the likelihood of injuries due to the repetitive nature of running
  • Helps to maintain flexibility and pliability of muscles allowing them to function effectively
  • Maintains the condition of the actual muscles tissue as it encourages the re-organisation of muscle architecture by returning the muscle to its normal length
  • Decreases the amount of stiffness experienced after an increase in mileage
  • Think of it as a reward for your legs

When should you have a massage?

Most people find scheduling appointments on the lighter training days (usually Thursday or Friday) more beneficial. This is mainly because it enables the therapist to treat any specific muscular tightness allowing a couple of days recovery before the long training run on Sundays.

Alternatively some runners enjoy having the massage following their longer run to allow them to maximise their training performances throughout the week.

It is suggested that whilst people are training for a half or full marathon they receive weekly massages. It is especially important to have massage towards the build-up to the longer training weeks, usually placed about 4 weeks prior to the marathon.

Post-marathon Massage

It is seen to be more valuable to receive massage as soon as possible following the event. As this helps to improve the recovery rate and reduces the intensity of delayed muscle soreness (DOMS) experienced 1-3 days post marathon.

The style of massage is different from those received before the event or in other treatment sessions as it is geared at aiding the lymphatic system in its attempt at waste removal and recovery. Therefore, the massage techniques are applied more gently and fluently. As micro damage to the muscle tissue occurs during longer runs and the marathon the massage will be lighter also.

Lower Leg

Understanding Injuries and the Healing Process:

Understanding Injuries and the Healing Process:

Injuries are very common especially in sports. It is crucial they are treated appropriately to avoid causing long term problems. Understanding the healing process will help explain what the body goes through after injury.

Whenever an injury has occurred, an inflammatory process will start. This is true whether you have had a soft-tissue injury or a fracture. The initial stages of inflammation involve swelling as the tissues start to heal themselves. The injured tissue is then gradually absorbed and new tissue is laid down.

The degree and location of your injury will determine whether you need to seek treatment. You will have a faster return to sport and will ensure the best recovery if your injury is seen straight away rather than waiting for it to become chronic or for other problems to develop.

Speeding up the healing process:

  • When there is swelling, in the initial stages of injury, use RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation)
  • Start gentle movements of the injured area. There may be a small amount of discomfort, but it is generally better to keep a joint moving, to avoid it becoming stiff. The movement also helps pump away the swelling.
  • As the swelling subsides, gentle stretches can be commenced. This is normally when the new tissue is being laid down and the stretches help align the tissue, as it heals
  • As the movement returns it is essential to start strength exercises. People quite often focus too heavily on stretching and forget about the importance of strengthening